Veterans: they've parted from their families and the comforts of home in exchange for careers on a military base upholding democracy. These men and women, the veterans of our nation’s military, have worked tirelessly to see that freedom and safety remain a reality in the United States. At Lourdes, staff thank veterans for their service by providing a variety of support programs designed to help them achieve academically, both in the classroom and beyond.
In the fall of 2009, Lourdes enhanced its on-campus services for military by opening a Veteran’s Center, establishing new scholarship programs and launching the SERV (Supportive Education for the Returning Veteran) project. As a participant in the Yellow Ribbon program, Lourdes also offers qualifying veterans up to $18,500 yearly for tuition and fees. In acknowledgment of its unwavering support to veterans and military, Lourdes has twice been named a Military Friendly School by GI Jobs magazine.
“We’re honored to be able to offer these services and opportunities to veterans,” shares Kim Grieve, PhD, Assistant Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students. “Lourdes is committed to assisting these brave men and women with their transition from soldier to civilian and student. Veterans attending Lourdes have expressed an appreciation for being recognized and provided with a ‘safe’ place to study, relax and meet fellow veterans.”
Lourdes service to veterans doesn’t end at the exits of campus though. Lourdes’ Language & Literature Department in partnership with the Toledo Lucas County Public Library recently hosted a series of creative writing workshops for veterans. English Professor Holly Baumgartner, PhD, and Adult Services Librarian at the Sylvania Branch Library Amy Hartman conducted the workshops, which encouraged participants to write about their combat experiences for academic, personal and historical benefit.
“At Lourdes, faculty are encouraged to be active in the community, so I started thinking about what I could do for our vets,” offers Dr. Baumgartner. “My skill is writing, so I tried to put it to use. At first, the idea was very much outside my comfort zone – these men and women had experiences I couldn’t begin to comprehend and I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to offer anything useful. But they were amazing and so appreciative of the workshop! I’m honored to have worked with them.
“Their writing was extremely powerful,” she adds. “An Afghanistan veteran wrote about swimming in a pool in the desert while bombs were being dropped, and a WWII German veteran wrote about coming to United States after the war,” she shares. “We had several Vietnam veterans in the workshop too – one wrote about building a latrine in the jungle, which was funny, yet poignant – and another wrote pieces that were truly heart wrenching.”
Dr. Baumgartner also relates that veterans who participated in the workshop admitted they benefitted greatly from the experience. “They said that the workshop gave them a safe space to share their writing. I think many were surprised to find that people like Amy and I were interested in what they had to say. In a way, the workshop was sort of an affirmation that their voices do matter.”
At Lourdes, the voices of veterans and military members certainly do matter. “Having veterans on campus truly benefits the entire Lourdes community,” stresses Dr. Grieve. “They bring a sense of maturity, diversity and worldly experience into the classroom that enhances students learning experiences.”
Dr. Baumgartner adds, “Hearing their experiences is very important. They are living history and the cool thing is that they are a living part of our community’s history. We need to honor that.”