Veteran services

University of Montana Launches New Office of Military and Veteran Services | Local News

The University of Montana is opening a new office to better serve veterans and active duty military.

The rebranding of the former office of Veterans Education and Transition Services aims to reach more people connected to the military, whether they are veterans, active service members or members of their family.

Through these relationships, the university will be able to connect more people to the benefits available to them.

“Rebranding allows the office to grow and gives us the opportunity to have more outreach, not only to the community, but also to the state and the entire region,” said Pat Beckwith, director of the new office of military and veteran services. “When we think about growing the office, we think about encouraging veterans and military families to take advantage of one of the biggest benefits you get in the military, which is free tuition.”

Beckwith is passionate about expanding the office – he graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point, New York. He served for a decade as an active duty army officer and is now a member of the Montana Army National Guard.

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He saw firsthand some of the roadblocks that exist for the military on college campuses. Veterans seeking a degree are often considered non-traditional students, who may be older than typical students and may have families of their own while not taking a full course load.

Beckwith aims to make the campus more accommodating for those who are military-related by offering different credit styles, a variety of credit transfer opportunities, and classes at different times of the day.

“UM is fiercely committed to tearing down the barriers that prevent veterans and active-duty military members from utilizing their hard-earned educational benefits,” said Seth Bodnar, UM President and Major in the Montana National Guard. “This new office will prioritize the needs of our military-affiliated students so they can continue their education right here at UM.”

Beckwith noted that the university is generally considered one of the best schools for accommodating military and veterans.

“There are more veterans per capita in Montana than any other state in the country,” said Mary Kreta, UM’s associate vice president for enrollment. “It’s not just a priority for this university, but it’s our state’s responsibility to work harder to ensure that more veterans, service members, and families use their educational benefits to access a education.”

The Office of Military and Veterans Services will focus on awareness and certification of veterans benefits. Additionally, the office will create a bridging program for new military students to ensure their success in college.

One of the steps taken by the university to remove these barriers to higher education was to remove application fees for veteran students.

There are currently 250 veterans enrolled at UM, in addition to 129 family members and dependents of veterans or military personnel. There are 19 active National Guard and Army Reserve members.

“For veterans, having other veterans who have gone down this path (to get a degree), it’s really important for them to see other people in positions of success outside of a military role,” said Beckwith. “Just because of the proximity to other veterans in this community, the University of Montana stands ready to help.”

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