By Carrie Heibler
Special for the Metro Wire
For U.S. Army veteran and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point senior Julian Phan and other veterans on campus, the University Veterans Club office at Dreyfus University Center is a safe area.
“When we’re out there, we can joke around, we can let off steam, we can be real with each other,” he said. “I’m grateful that Point has given veterans a permanent space to be around people we know.”
A senior from Rochester, Minnesota, Phan appreciated the support of the UW-Stevens Point Veterans Club and the Office of Veterans Services as he completed his degree in natural resource management. He will graduate Dec. 11 and hopes to work for a federal natural resources agency in the northwest.
Throughout his life, Phan heard about his father’s experiences in the military and overseas travel and wanted those same opportunities. When he graduated from high school, he didn’t feel ready for college, but was eager for new experiences.
“Being stationed in Alaska was truly an adventure,” he said of his more than three years as a communications specialist at Fort Wainwright Army Base in Fairbanks with the 25th Infantry Division. He also served a few months at Camp Casey in Korea. At the end of his service, he decided to study natural resources.
“Growing up I was always outdoors and in high school I took environmental classes which solidified my interests,” he said. “My work in Alaska gave me a realistic idea of what it would be like to work in all aspects of natural resources and its impact on the economy.”
It’s not always easy for veteran students to make the transition from military life to the classroom, Phan said. His freshman year in school at another institution wasn’t the right fit, so he transferred to UW-Stevens Point for his sophomore year. Phan found Stevens Point to be an active, friendly, outdoor community.
“I had friends who recommended the UW-Stevens Point natural resources program to me,” he said. “I had excellent teachers and specialized classes that you find in large institutions. Here, everyone is passionate about their field. »
He also found support from Veterans Services and then the coordinator, Ann Whipp before he even started his classes. An expert on what he would need to collect Veterans Affairs benefits, Whipp gave Phan a good start in his Pointer experience, he said.
“She knew everything I needed,” he said. “I really appreciated his close collaboration with all the veterans.”
Melanie Cychosz assumed the role of coordinator in June 2021, following Whipp’s retirement.
“My most important job is to make veterans feel appreciated and welcome,” she said. “These are mostly non-traditional students, so we want them to feel at home on campus.” Having a veterans club and a dedicated veterans services office and coordinator are among the reasons UW-Stevens Point has continually been named a VIQTORY Military Friendly School.
“Veterans education is an important part of our mission at UW-Stevens Point,” Chancellor Thomas Gibson said. “UW-Stevens Point is proud to serve our more than 300 student veterans. We value the diversity, global perspectives, and leadership they bring to our campus and classrooms.
As Veterans Day approaches, Phan hopes people recognize and appreciate that, like any job, each veteran has had a different experience that could have been good or bad. “We volunteered to serve, and we all did so for different reasons,” he said. “Appreciate that we have this choice.”
Current or prospective UW-Stevens Point students can learn more about the Veterans Club or support through Veterans Services at www.uwsp.edu/finaid/veteran-services or by calling Cychosz at 715- 346-4771.