First-year medical student Robert Beveridge didn’t need a door prize to tell him he’s a winner.
The former Navy Hospital Corpsman from Monticello, Georgia, won a gift for attending a recent ceremony marking the new status for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) as a “VETS Campus.” The designation recognizes UTHSC’s work to help military veterans transition from military service to higher education.
But Beveridge was already well aware that he’s received a big prize — being able to pursue his dream of becoming a physician.
He’s one of 14,000 military veterans across Tennessee enrolled in higher education, and one of more than 70 vets on the UTHSC campus.
The latter number, up from 47 in 2014, reflects UTHSC’s efforts to make health care education more accessible to qualified students who have served their country. It is also one of the reasons why UTHSC has become the first in the statewide University of Tennessee System to be named a VETS Campus.
The Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act passed in 2014 established a program authorizing the recognition given by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to state colleges and universities that offer a supportive environment for military veterans, and that dedicate resources to help them move to post-secondary education. So far, a dozen Tennessee institutions have been named VETS Campuses.
During the ceremony on August 21, UTHSC was recognized for meeting the criteria for recognition. State Sen. Mark Norris, author of the bill that created the program, applauded UTHSC’s faculty and staff, noting that this is no honorary title, but one that took work to achieve.
To get VETS certification, campuses must:
- Conduct an annual survey of student veterans to identify needs and get suggestions.
- Provide faculty and staff with information about military culture and combat-related mental and physical disabilities or challenges.
- Offer orientation programs, mentoring and support services for veterans, as well as transferable credits for training and experience achieved through military service.
- Develop outreach and work with military bases near campus.
- Provide information about the program on the campus website.
“It truly is a commitment of this university to make sure that we bring those people who served our nation to the educational goals to which they aspire,” UTHSC Chancellor Steve Schwab told the gathering.
“Student veterans add a level of maturity, life experience, leadership and excellence to the classroom, campus, workplace and our communities,” said John Drnek, assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services.
“We believe efforts like yours to recruit, retain and support student veterans to graduation will only continue to enrich the Volunteer State by helping these trained leaders transition to their next chapter,” he said.
For Beveridge that support is the reason he’s back in medical school after dropping out last year because of stress at school and at home. “There have been a multitude of ways UT has helped,” he said.
Jasmine Daily, now in the National Guard after serving as a Technical Sergeant in the Air Force, will graduate from UTHSC’s Dental Hygiene Program in May. “They are doing an awesome job with the actual assistance of veterans,’’ she said.
She plans eventually to apply to dental school, with the goal of becoming a dental officer in the Air Force.
“UTHSC is really at the top of their game in making sure that we have someone there to assist us in getting our paperwork done, assist in our getting our benefits and scholarships, and in providing someone to talk to and help in getting access to whoever we need to get access to,” she said. “They are really good about feedback, too. They sent out a survey, and anything we felt was lacking, they corrected.”