University of Michigan-Dearborn is named a Gold-Level Veteran-Friendly School by the Michigan Veteran-Friendly School program.
The program recognizes higher education institutions committed to supporting the needs of military-connected students. Run by Michigan’s Veterans Affairs Agency, it awards gold, silver or bronze level to colleges and universities that offer veteran-centric services and programs.
At the gold level, universities must meet the majority of criteria, which includes veteran-specific career services and a system to evaluate and award credit based on prior military training and experience.
Assistant Director Center for Social Justice & Inclusion Tom Pitock, who is the veterans coordinator, said UM-Dearborn didn’t meet most criteria for the award — the campus met all of it.
Pitock, who has 22 years of service and retired from the Coast Guard in 2008, said it’s important to serve the needs of veterans and provide a level of structure. Pitock said transitioning from military service to civilian life is already difficult, and it is important to bring a level of familiarity.
“Once a service member separates from the military, the accustomed structure and stability dissipate and that can make anything difficult to maneuver. The Veterans Affairs staff helps with structure, stability and eases some of the uncertainty associated with higher education,” Pitock said. “We are veterans. We provide military-connected students with navigation checklists, individual advice to which office to contact, and a location to establish camaraderie with other veterans on campus.”
In addition to veteran-specific services — which include individual orientation for newly admitted military-affiliated students, a dedicated career services counselor and priority registration — UM-Dearborn also has veteran-focused programming.
In the 2019-2020 academic year — which is the time frame the Michigan Veteran-Friendly School program evaluated — Pitock said programming included stress relief for veterans during finals, a celebration for veteran and military-affiliated graduates, and a panel discussion that honored the Montford Point Marines.
Pitock said the gold-level certification recognizes the overall commitment that UM-Dearborn has to veterans and military-affiliated persons.
“The award acknowledges the collaborative effort from numerous offices across campus,” Pitock said. “The rigor of higher education is challenging and by having so many people at UM-Dearborn supporting veteran success, we can make a difference with veteran student persistence and graduation rates.”