Today, the nation celebrates Veteran’s Day. If you know a veteran or an active military duty person, please relay thanks to them.
There are more 7,000 current active military personnel, their dependents, as well as civilian employees in our region. In addition to active duty, reserve and National Guard members stationed in the region, central and western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota consists of higher veteran rates per capita then many regions in the U.S.
In fact, when veterans under 25 are considered, northern and central Minnesota and eastern North Dakota rank among the highest per capita in the nation.
The veteran concentration in Polk County, Minn. and surrounding counties is well above the national median, as high as 25-50% in some areas according to the Department of Veteran Affairs.
The University of Minnesota Crookston is proud that we are a veteran-friendly campus and support our military personnel who are taking classes from us online or on-campus. There are more than 40 veterans in our classes this semester. We have a number of ways we support our veterans from assistance with going back to school, counseling, and financial aid, etc. But even more importantly we respect and honor our military personnel and veterans and actively seek their experiences in our classrooms. Unfortunately on some campuses many see issues and think military and veterans need more assistance.
One of our 40 veterans on the UMN Crookston campus is Brian Bekkala, a golf and turf management major from Livonia, Mich. Brian served in the United States Marine Corps as a combat photographer from 2012-17.
As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Veterans Day means a day to remember service members who served before, during and after Brian’s time. On Veterans Day he tries to think about the people he served with and family members who have served. Brian reaches out to see what his family members are up to, whether that is with a call or text message. As a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps, Brian is most proud of helping the people of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands after a typhoon went through the region. He also thoroughly enjoyed speaking and listening to a group of World War II veterans. They took him in for a few days and told stories like he was one of them.
We are very proud of the service Brian and our veteran students gave to their country. Like all of our students, we see the attributes our veterans bring. Among them are:
Intense focus: Besides their drive and intense focus, one of the reasons for this success is the intense training service members receive while serving. This prior training allows military-connected students to come to the classroom with knowledge and experience their peers might not necessarily have, as well as a drive to learn.
Diversity and diverse perspectives: Many individuals who have served in the military have participated in some sort of multicultural training to help prepare for potential deployments or for being stationed in another country. Many have also had the experience of being abroad and experiencing different cultures firsthand. This training and experience brings a unique perspective to the classroom and provides opportunity for rich discussion as military-connected students are able to share their experiences with classmates.
Resiliency and trained problem solvers: According to a 2016 webcast by Tanya Ang (American Council on Education) and Bruce Kelley (University of South Dakota), titled “Supporting military-connected students for success and competition,” “The military stresses creativity and resilience. Army leaders, for example, are trained in "challenging inflexible ways of thinking, removing impediments to institutional innovation, and underwriting the risks associated with bold change.” During their time in service, many military-connected students have indeed been faced with challenges they have had to overcome with creativity and resilience. That creativity and resiliency can greatly impact their success in higher education. Many have dependents, have financial obligations, and are working a full-time job while taking classes.
Service-oriented: Kelley suggests, “Military and veteran students are service-oriented; they joined "the service." In fact, student veterans volunteer at a higher rate than most students. Because of this, they can excel at service-learning types of activities. They often have connections to the community, and they engender the respect from those outside of academia that may be necessary to move a project forward. Service learning often involves the accomplishment of a practical activity with reflection and assessment afterwards -- an educational environment that is perhaps closest to that of the military's own educational processes.”
Working toward a mission and focused: “Military-related students have been enculturated to be self-sufficient. Military-related students can draw on their training for both discipline and work ethic.
Please join me in appreciating not only the service they have provided but the many attributes they bring to our community and university.
Mary Holz-Clause is chancellor of University of Minnesota Crookston.