FORT COLLINS – Colorado State University is an attractive place for vets – and that means veterans as well as veterinarians.
CSU placed 16th out of 325 academic institutions across the country in Military Times’ annual “Best for Vets” rankings, and No. 1 in the central region, which includes Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota.
CSU’s primarily online Global Campus was ranked 281st on Military Times’ list, which was led by the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Elsewhere in Northern Colorado and the Boulder Valley, Naropa University in Boulder placed 304th and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley placed 316th.
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Other schools in Colorado that made the rankings included Pikes Peak State College, formerly Pikes Peak Community College, in Colorado Springs at No. 50. Metropolitan State College in Denver was 76th, the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora placed 95th, Colorado Technical University in Denver was 241st, Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood and Arvada was 301st and the University of Denver was 305th.
Known as the largest and most comprehensive ranking of schools for military service members and veterans, the Best for Vets list touted CSU’s reputation as one of the nation’s top public research universities. The ranking also highlighted CSU’s sustainability efforts, noting that the university is the only institution in the world to have earned four consecutive Platinum Sustainability ratings.
CSU is known for its world-class school of veterinary medicine, but its commitment to veterans runs deep as well through its Adult Learner and Veteran Services department, which offers academic and social support to nontraditional students such as parents, adults, caregivers and veterans, the university noted in marking the designation.
“I believe one of the things that earned us the ranking is our commitment to being a leader in the work we do,” said Ben Schrader, director of ALVS at CSU.
Military Times bases its rankings on survey responses sent to all two- and four-year schools and on feedback from student veterans. Institutions are evaluated in a variety of categories, including university culture, student support, academic policies, academic outcomes/quality, cost and financial aid.
CSU has become a leader in its model of serving not only veterans, but also integrating them into a diverse community of other types of adult learners and campus resources. Its leaders call it a “value add” model.
“So many look at veteran services as a deficit model, for instance addressing post-traumatic stress disorder or disabilities. We flip it on its head,” Schrader said. “This population brings in leadership skills, time-management skills and life experience. We focus on what they are bringing in and providing for our university, while offering resources and support. People look to us as the cutting-edge model.”
ALVS recently completed the renovation of its new offices at the Lory Student Center. The expansion, bringing the total space to more than 8,000 square feet, supports increased interaction and collaboration among students and peer advis
oers and allows ALVS staff to conduct more workshops and training s in their own space.
“This whole space sets us apart from other campuses, now having an 8,000-square-foot facility,” Schrader said. “We had 2,000 check-ins last year, in a temporary small space, and this year, in just the last two and a half months, we have had 2,700.”
Former director Marc Barker and assistant director Lisa Chandler have given presentations on this model across the country. They recognize that services for veterans on campus have to adapt and continue to work to be more inclusive. CSU continues to rank high on the Best for Vets list in part by bringing together both adult learners and student veterans in the same space, to prevent feelings of isolation on campus, CSU said.
“We bring in a lot of campus partners,” Chandler said. “We don’t want veterans to think they can only interface with the veterans office. We bring in a career center liaison, WGAC advocates, case workers, student health center representatives and mental-health resources. We maximize the whole campus.
“The population is always changing; more veterans are coming in with less combat experience, and from a younger generation,” she added. “We work to build in knowledge around our population to work together with our campus partners and community partners.”
CSU also works through its Office of Defense Engagement and supports resource conservation and military readiness through the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands, based in the Warner College of Natural Resources.
“CSU’s unwavering commitment to the success of student veterans and the university’s dedicated support exemplifies a profound understanding of the unique challenges faced by those who have served our country,” said Mitchell Gilchrist, president of Student Veterans of America at CSU and an electrical engineering student veteran, in a prepared statement. “With deep appreciation, we acknowledge CSU’s tireless efforts in fostering an inclusive and supportive environment and empowering our veterans to thrive academically and personally as they transition to civilian life with confidence and purpose.”
Additionally, research and support for injured veterans and their families is available through the New Start for Veterans Program in the Center for Community Partnerships in the College of Health and Human Sciences, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs works on campus with student veterans to provide health care and benefit support.