DePaul recognized as a top military-friendly college

Victoria Williamson | The DePaulia

The SR Education Group has ranked DePaul as one of 2018’s “Top Military-Friendly Online Colleges.” The ranking puts DePaul among 60 other colleges to earn the distinction.

The SR Education Group, a leading educational ranking publication, said colleges that made the list “provide strong military communities and support networks for their online students as well as exceptional financial assistance and flexibility.”

DePaul has the largest veteran student population of any university in Chicago. Last year, DePaul had 612 veteran students using benefits who made up roughly 3 percent of the entire student body.

For many veterans, life after the military brings a whole new set of challenges. Leaving a world of rigid structure that often includes long periods of boredom peppered with short bursts of extreme danger can be difficult, and veterans students often deal with issues that are different than their peers. Choosing a college is often the first step in navigating life on the outside.

One of the things that makes DePaul so desirable for veterans is that DePaul is a Yellow Ribbon school. Yellow Ribbon schools pledge to supplement the additional cost of tuition for veteran students. While some universities give out a limited number of Yellow Ribbon scholarships, DePaul has no cap on the number of scholarships it gives out. At DePaul, every veteran receiving 100 percent of their G.I. Bill is eligible for a Yellow Ribbon scholarship.

James Stewart is the director of Adult, Veteran and Commuter Student Affairs and helps non-traditional students at DePaul.

“Veterans bring discipline, worldliness and professionalism to DePaul,” he said. “They are a positive influence on the students around them.”

Stewart said that veterans garner a high level of respect, both from their peers and from faculty. He said that veterans are right at home in the DePaul community because of their service.

“In my mind, our veteran students have already lived the Vincentian mission,” he said. “This makes a congruence to DePaul and understanding of sacrifice and service to others so natural.”

Fatai Soyebo is a veteran student studying business management. He said that DePaul has made him feel right at home.

“DePaul is right next to my house, so it was definitely where I wanted to go,” he said.

Soyebo said that he is a “really old freshman,” at over 30 years old. Although his needs are different from the average 18-year-old freshman, he said DePaul has met those needs head-on.

“DePaul caters to my needs with the veterans center,” he said. “They are always looking out for me.”

One of the ways Veterans Affairs bridges the gap between university and veteran students is by having veteran liaisons.

Bridget Keane is one of the veteran liaisons at DePaul. She served for over five years in the Marine Corps and is now studying public relations. She said that the Student Veterans Union is an excellent resource for veterans on campus and that her office is always looking for ways to make things better for veterans.

“We try to make the transition as easy as possible,” she said.

Keane said that the veteran’s office has a “Quarterly Connect” event where veterans can come and learn about upcoming events at DePaul, degree programs that may interest them, and possible job and internship opportunities.

“When you get out, you don’t always have the support that you used to have,” she said. “Sometimes it can be a little lonely.”

This is not the first time DePaul has earned recognition for its treatment of veterans. In 2014, Victory Media ranked DePaul in the top 20 percent of all universities for being military friendly.

On Thursday, there was a veteran career event in the DePaul Center hosted by the Office of Veterans Affairs. These events are commonplace at DePaul, and veterans get weekly email notifications alerting them to hiring events. Companies like Bosh, Accenture and Brooksource were in attendance, looking for veterans to employ.

Rachel Gitlevich is a senior recruiter for Brooksource, an IT staffing firm that has implemented a “Patriot Project” to hire more veterans. Gitlevich is also a DePaul graduate. She said the DePaul Veterans Affairs Office is easily accessible.

“DePaul has probably been our best relationship so far,” she said. “Their Veterans Affairs Office has been the easiest to contact and work with.”

Gitlevich said that one of the biggest challenges for veterans is learning how to apply the skills they learned in the military.

“Our veterans are talented, but sometimes they don’t realize that the skills they have do transfer over to civilian life.”