During a visit to the University of Arizona, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), one of the first women to fly combat missions during the war in Iraq, noted that the UA has a suite of student veteran services that is unique and reputable in the nation.
Duckworth's congressional colleague, U.S. Rep. Ron Barber(D-Ariz.), hosted the visit to the UA's recently expandedVeterans Education and Transition Services, or Student VETS Center, which has become a national model for serving student veterans.
"We are here together because we both are strong supporters of veterans," Barber said during Tuesday's tour. "We have to make sure we do everything in our power to support veterans."
Barber said the UA has been proactive and responsive in addressing national demand.
The UA has developed a comprehensive set of offerings to help student veterans – before they arrive on campus and during their studies – to transition from military life to academic studies.
The University offers support for its nearly 1,000 student veterans through academic courses, social engagement opportunities and advocacy and disability resources, among other things.
While at the center, Duckworth and Barber learned about the important role of the Disability Resource Center in serving student veterans and the University's Supporting Education for the Returning Veterans (SERV) courses, a cohort-based program that helps student veterans transition into higher education and civilian life. Of the student veterans who have taken the UA's SERV courses, more than 90 percent continued their studies at the UA.
Duckworth noted that, across the nation, student veterans have begun asking their institutions for designated spaces. However, it is important to offer more than that, she said.
"We're in a place that is so different from military life and culture. Having a safe place is critical," said Duckworth, who also served as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after a 2009 appointment by U.S. President Barack Obama.
"This institution really is serving as an example for the nation," said Duckworth who, like Barber, has led initiatives to better support the nation's veterans and active military personnel.
Duckworth and Barber both expressed that they were impressed with the University's strong partnership with the Southern Arizona Veteran Affairs Health Care System. The lead psychologist, a women's counselor and nurse practitioner with the center offer regular counseling and health workshops to student veterans at the UA.
"I have not come across anything like that elsewhere," Duckworth said.