UTM was one of six state wide universities selected by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to receive a special grant to better assist veteran students transition into campus life.
The Veteran Reconnect grant awarded $169,000 to UTM over a 22-month period to hire a veteran service specialist and create a tailored orientation program and center for those that have served in the armed forces.
“We are very excited to receive the Tennessee Veterans Reconnect Grant,” said James Mantooth, Executive Director of Enrollment Services and Student Engagement. “This grant will allow us to do a number of things, and, perhaps most importantly, we are going to be able to hire a Veterans Services Specialist.”
The veterans services specialist will act as an intermediary between students and the many different units on campus to coordinate all aspects of registration and finances. He or she will also engage with the community to make them aware of all that the university has to offer them, should they choose to return to school.
“I think that that’s something needed here at UTM and at all schools, honestly, because I remember myself coming home from Iraq, starting school, and it was a difficult process,” said James Copeland, ex-Marine of seven years and a university information technology specialist. Copeland is also a graduate student at UTM working towards his MBA to one day become an IT manager.
The application process began in July through a stream of emails among Mantooth, Dr. Bonnie Daniel, senior research associate in the Office of Research Grants and Contracts, and Dr. Alice-Catherine Carls, professor of history and philosophy and advisor to the Skyhawk Veterans Association.
The organization was created four years ago by Carls to provide a support system for veteran students. They also get out in the community and perform services, such as cleaning the war memorial at the city of Dresden courthouse. With the additions from the grant, the organization hopes to take on a mentoring role for incoming students.
“We’ve been advocating for something like this to happen,” said Carls. “It’s really absolutely fortuitous and marvelous to me that this opportunity came and that the university was willing to apply.”
Room 232 in the Boling University Center has been designated as the location for the center, and donated furniture is currently being set up. The Veterans Success Committee is also currently drafting a description of the position.
The other schools to receive the grant were Chattanooga State Community College, Lipscomb University, Maryville College, Middle Tennessee State University and Tusculum College.