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TWU expands services for military veteran students

Tennessee Wesleyan University is expanding its focus on serving students who have served in the military. TWU has received a grant through the Veteran Reconnect program administered by the State of Tennessee, established a Veterans Services Office, and earned a 2018 Military Friendly School Designation from G.I. Jobs.

TWU President Dr. Harley Knowles said this is the third year the Veteran Reconnect grant program has been offered, and TWU received $67,838.

“We’re one of the few private schools that got this state grant this year,” Knowles said, adding the university is “proud to serve” veterans interested in beginning or finishing a degree.

State Sen. Mike Bell and State Rep. Dr. John Forgety were present to celebrate TWU receiving the grant.

Bell said programs like Veteran Reconnect and veteran-friendly services like those offered by TWU are especially meaningful to him because he has one son on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, and another son is a U.S. Marine Corps veterans.

Forgety, a veteran of both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, said veterans have “a different mindset” and he is glad they have opportunities like attending TWU. Also, in a time when our country is experiencing cultural and social changes, opportunities like the Veteran Reconnect grant are valuable, he added.

Forgety said TWU has shown its interest in serving veterans by pursuing the Veteran Reconnect grant.

“Thank you so much for doing this for veterans,” Forgety said.

Knowles said TWU takes seriously its duty to prepare these students for their next career.

“They’re mature, they’re disciplined, they’re organized,” he said. “We are here to help them.”

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) provides colleges and universities in Tennessee with additional funding and program support through Veteran Reconnect to serve veterans and service members and help them earn postsecondary degrees as part of Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55.

The grant program focuses on improving the assessment of prior learning for student veterans returning to college, helping them more easily convert previous military experience into college credit, and improving the transition between military service and postsecondary education.

Institutions receiving the grants are required to develop and implement new evaluation processes for translating military training into academic credit, while also ensuring that prospective and incoming student veterans have easy, clear access to the information. The institutions that participate in Veteran Reconnect grant program will be partners in that effort by mapping the opportunities already available to students at their institutions.

Dr. Grant Willhite, TWU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, said the purpose of the Veteran Reconnect grant is to make sure that student veterans’ experiences will count as course equivalencies in school. He said the grant-funded TWU’s Veterans Services Coordinator position held by Nicole Mullaney.

“It’s my hope we can continue to have that position long term,” Willhite said.

Tasked with establishing TWU’s Veterans Services Office, Mullaney is launching the veterans program on campus and said her office will be a friendly space to veterans where they can meet and find information about services available to them. TWU’s Veterans Services office is located on the main floor of Lawrence Hall adjacent to the Registrar’s office.

Mullaney is also working on making it easier to transfer classroom and experience credits earned by veterans to TWU. For example, military basic training counts as a physical education credit at TWU. She has seen physics, chemistry, first aid and some computer experience that will qualify for TWU credits, as well.

“I’ve started a list and once I finish we will begin to address that,” Mullaney said.

Veterans attending TWU may bring in their service transcripts to be evaluated at registration.

“Our goal is to determine what credits they can get that will count toward their degree,” Mullaney said, adding officials can compare course descriptions between TWU’s classes with what students may have taken in the military.

Mullaney has previously worked in higher education and with military students, and she plans to begin contacting students soon to make them aware of what is offered at TWU. She said the Military Friendly School Designation is important; she believes it may lead people to support TWU because TWU supports veterans.

“When you see that designation it says, ‘They are supporting veterans,'” Mullaney said.

Mullaney wants to reach out to all students to ask who has served in the military, and she wants to add to the application process the question: Have you served in the military?

“They could be a veteran and we not know it,” she said of current and prospective students.

TWU Registrar Julie McCaslin said Tennessee Wesleyan has received the Military Friendly School Designation since 2012.

“We’ve got a wide range of students here who are veterans,” McCaslin said.

She noted some eligible students utilize military benefits, but not all are using their education benefits through the military.

“We can only track those students who come through my office for benefits,” McCaslin said, estimating there are 25 to 30 veteran students certified through her office.

And, through the Military Friendly School Designation, McCaslin said TWU tries “to connect our veterans to different faculty and staff members who have served in the military as an additional resource.”

Willhite said there are many unique challenges for some veterans entering an academic setting and TWU is working on ways to bring that community together.

For more information about TWU’s Veterans Services Office, contact Nicole Mullaney at 423-746-5282 or