MC signs "Got Your 6" pledge to support student veterans

MC signs “Got Your 6” pledge to support student veterans

Dec. 18, 2013
Contact: Chloe Kennedy, Assistant Director of Communications

Maryville College has signed a pledge to join the Education Pillar of the “Got Your 6” campaign to support student veterans.

By signing the pledge, the College has made a commitment to implement or enhance resources, programs and policies to support this population.

“Got Your 6” is a movement led by a consortium of major film and television studios, broadcast and cable television networks, talent agencies and guilds that are united in changing the conversation in America with regard to veterans and military families.

Maryville College is joining dozens of higher education institutions nationwide committed to heightening support for student veterans. The College is one of two higher education institutions in Tennessee that has signed the pledge.

“Maryville College’s strategic plan emphasizes recruiting a diverse student body to expose the entire campus community to a variety of perspectives,” said Maryville College President Dr. William T. “Tom” Bogart. “Veterans bring a wide range of experiences that enrich campus life.”

Leading the “Got Your 6 Education Pillar: Transitioning through Education" efforts are the Pat Tillman Foundation, Student Veterans of America and Operation College Promise, who are working collaboratively to collect pledges from 500 colleges and universities by June 2014.

“Got Your 6” focuses on six key pillars of veteran integration: Jobs, Health, Family, Education, Housing and Leadership. In each pillar, nonprofit partners have established a tangible and measurable goal to demonstrate that veterans are leaders and assets in the community.

In military vernacular, the expression “Got Your Six” means “I’ve got your back, and in turn, you have mine.”

“The reciprocal nature of this statement underlies the message that the ‘Got Your 6’ campaign strives to spread to all Americans. ‘Got Your 6’ represents a powerful show of respect and understanding for our veterans and military families,” according to the “Got Your 6” website.

Vandy Kemp, MC vice president and dean of students, first heard of the campaign when she was approached by freshman Sean Hagstrom, who is a Marine Corps veteran. Hagstrom said he saw it as a way for the College to encourage more veterans to attend, and it’s considered one of the first steps in becoming a veteran-friendly institution.

“As we have more and more combat veterans coming in, I realized that we need to learn how to adequately support them in their transition to academic life on a college campus,” Kemp said.

Additionally, “it is the right thing to do,” she said.

“Two hundred years ago, Maryville College founder Isaac Anderson showed up in East Tennessee and found Cherokee, Choctaw and freed African slaves who had no access to education,” Kemp said. “And he welcomed them. Welcoming diverse groups is what we do."

Out of the 34 students receiving the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program benefits at Maryville College, 16 are student veterans.

See the full list of institutions that have signed the Education Pillar’s Got Your 6 pledge »

Hagstrom, who served in the Marine Corps for seven years and was twice deployed to Iraq, arrived on the Maryville College campus in August 2013.

“I chose Maryville College mainly because of the size of the institution,” Hagstrom said. “I had been out of school for seven years and wanted a more personal relationship with my professors.”

A member of Maryville College’s cross country team, Hagstrom became involved in campus life. Like Kemp, he, too, saw a need for additional support of student veterans at Maryville College.

“I wanted to encourage the improvement of resources and programs that are already present for veterans and to be utilized by veterans as a military-to-civilian transition tool,” said Hagstrom, a 2006 graduate of Oak Ridge High School.

He took over one of Maryville College’s former student organizations, Maryville College for our Military and Their Families (MC4MF), which had low membership numbers.

“It was a dying club, so I decided to claim it, restructure it and turn it into the Maryville College Student Veterans Association (MCSVA),” Hagstrom said.

After the organization was repurposed, he applied for a charter through the Student Veterans of America and was approved.

The organization’s mission is “to assist veterans and family members in addressing the challenges associated with the transition from military service to being actively engaged in the college experience and to hold the responsibility for initiating, planning, developing and implementing strategies and programs which are sensitive to the needs of our veterans and their dependents in their mission of graduation from Maryville College.”

There are eight active members, and the organization is seeking new members.

“And you don’t have to be a veteran to be a member!” Hagstrom said.

Many veterans are attracted to Maryville College because it’s a good alternative to larger, public institutions, Kemp said.

While Maryville College is a good fit for many veterans, veterans are also good for Maryville College, according to Kemp.

“It enriches the learning experience for all of us,” Kemp said. “Because of the length and degree of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, society in America will be deeply influenced by the veteran experience for the next 40-50 years.

“The veterans among us at MC offer an important opportunity for all of us – students, staff, and faculty – to put a face on the veteran experience.”

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,197.