MC receives state's Veteran Reconnect Grant

Maryville College receives state’s Veteran Reconnect Grant

Aug. 11, 2015

Maryville College is one of 11 colleges and universities in Tennessee selected to receive the Veteran Reconnect Grant, a competitive grant focused on improving the success of student veterans pursuing higher education.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam made the announcement Monday.

“From 2008 to 2013, we saw a 200 percent increase in the number of veterans enrolling in our Tennessee colleges and universities,” the governor said. “Our Veterans Education Task Force has been working to address the unique needs that our service men and women have when they come home and go back to school, and these competitive grants will help 2-year and 4-year schools develop initiatives specifically designed for veterans to be successful in earning a degree or certificate.”

Haslam included in his FY 2015-2016 budget amendment – and the General Assembly approved – $1 million for the Veteran Reconnect Grant. It is part of the governor’s Drive to 55 initiative aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with a certificate or degree beyond high school.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) was released in May. Proposals were due July 2 and reviewed by a committee of higher education and veteran service leaders.

Maryville College is slated to receive $82,257. Only two other private institutions – Belmont University and Lipscomb University – were awarded the grant.

Maryville College President Dr. Tom Bogart said recruiting veterans is in line with the College’s mission.

Our Statement of Purpose declares that we strive 'to be an instrument of liberation and growth for adults of all ages,’” he said. “This grant helps provide resources to fulfill that aspiration with an important group of students.

“While maintaining our focus on joining the liberal arts with professional preparation, our faculty and staff have thoughtfully enhanced pathways for students who do not come to Maryville College directly after graduating high school,” he continued. “We are proud to join our educational partners across the state in helping achieve the Drive to 55 goals that will benefit all Tennesseans.”

Funding will help in three areas

Vandy Kemp, vice president and dean of students, wrote the grant proposal and will serve as project director. She said the funding will support institutional infrastructure and programming in three phases: access to Maryville College, college success while enrolled, and career success (linking military and college experience to career readiness).

“We want to provide a wide range of services to a growing number of veterans and their dependents that will insure college and career success on a much larger scale than currently possible,” she explained. “In recent years, the enrollment of military veterans at Maryville College has significantly increased as more and more vets return to our region.”

Kemp went on to say that veterans who enroll at Maryville College thrive.

“We have learned that Maryville College is a very good college choice for them,” she said. “Our small size and emphasis on a highly personalized experience provides veterans with the encouragement and support they often need as they transition to college.

“Small class size, one-on-one faculty advising and a supportive atmosphere all combine to contribute to their success. Their degree completion rate is more than 25 percent higher than our nonveteran students. All of this made our grant proposal very attractive to the Governor’s Office.”

Grant will build on momentum

In 2013, the Maryville College Student Veterans Association (MCSVA) was formed, and members were successful in getting the College to join the Education Pillar of the “Got Your 6” campaign to support student veterans. Since then, several new initiatives have been launched, including the hiring of an admissions recruiter who focuses on veteran outreach and the organization of "Green Zone Training" for faculty and staff to promote a positive and supportive campus environment for veterans.

During the fall of 2014, the College officially stated its commitment to the U.S. Department of Education’s “8 Keys to Veterans’ Success” initiative, and last spring, the campus hosted the "Creating College Success for Veterans" conference, which was attended by veterans and administrators from other colleges and universities.

The College’s biggest needs are for an appropriately equipped and adequately staffed military student center, Kemp said.

“Veterans need a campus location that is their own, and they need an advocate who can help them navigate the transition to college. The grant will enable us to establish a military student center and a director’s position to provide support services for our vets and military dependents,” she said. “In addition, we can now acquire veteran specific-resources for Career Services and Academic Support Services.”

(Lt. Col. Ted Higgs, an Army retiree and adjunct English instructor at the College, has been named director of military student services after serving as advisor to the MCSVA.)

“All of this will help us welcome our military veterans and their dependents to Maryville College and provide for their academic and career success,” Kemp continued. “We are thankful that the Governor’s Office saw that investing in veterans at Maryville College is a sound investment for the State of Tennessee.”

By Karen B. Eldridge, Executive Director for Marketing & Communications

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 2018 semester is 1,154.