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Purdue serves military students through on-campus office

The Veterans Success Center opened in 2014, after students expressed the need for a place to gather for military-related resources, director Morgan Torres said.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — As the country honors its servicemen and women, Purdue University continues its efforts to serve military students.

The Veterans Success Center opened in 2014, after students expressed the need for a place to gather for military-related resources, director Morgan Torres said.

Today, the Veterans Success Center serves more than 1,500 Boilermakers who are military, veteran and military-connected.

One of those students is sophomore Michael Whitfield, who joined the military in 2020. Whitfield said he came to the Veterans Success Center looking for answers about his military education benefits.

"The staff are just so welcoming," Whitfield said, "and they are really trying to maximize everything you can get at the Veterans Success Center."

According to Assistant Director Bryan Arbic, the center is a devoted space for resources on admissions, benefits, and development. Arbic said a large part of the needed support comes down to financial questions and concerns.

Torres said the office has four certifying officials dedicated to helping students better understand the G.I. Bill.

"The G.I. Bill is one of many education benefits that a service member can obtain," Torres said. "That's just one component."

Credit: WTHR/Samantha Johnson

"We process their benefits packages so the VA [Veterans Affairs] will pay the bill to Purdue and the students can go to class," Arbic said. "We also provide a series of workshops and other programming to help the transition, specifically for those veterans."

"If you are a veteran and you do choose to go to Purdue, this should be your first stop," Whitfield said.

The Veterans Success Center also offers a program called Green Zone. It is designed to help fellow students and staff understand and appreciate the veteran and military experience, as well as how to better support military-connected students.

"We find that is very, very beneficial," Arbic said. "They start to understand some of the things that those students are struggling with. They start to understand that we are a resource to them, so if they have questions about those students and their concerns, they can come to us and we can help."

Staff at the center say they are able to relate to the current students because they are all military-connected as well.

"It's definitely comforting knowing that they understand what I'm going through and all my different situations," Whitfield said. "I am a father as well, and they take into account the other things I'm doing. They always prioritize me being a student, and I feel very welcomed here every single day that I walk through."

Torres said she first enlisted in the military when she was in high school. She eventually found herself inside the Veterans Success Center at Purdue.

"I benefitted heavily from the many resources and opportunities that came out of this office, so much so that I nearly lived here," Torres said.

Another critical offering at the Veterans Success Center is camaraderie, according to Torres. That's because many of the student veterans are non-traditional students.

One of Arbic's main priorities in the office is helping students prepare for life after college, especially when it comes to entering the workforce. Arbic hosts events like career fairs and resume building workshops.

"Our resumes look a little bit different," Arbic said. "That translation of military jargon is tough for somebody who has never been in the military."

Whitfield is currently a second-semester sophomore at Purdue. He said he plans to pursue consulting, project management or data analytics after graduation.

"I am in a much better place than I was prior to coming to the Veterans Success Center," Whitfield said.

"We can give those students that knowledge that will help them be successful," Arbic said, "as they transition from service to campus and then from campus on to employment."

As a member of the Big Ten Conference, Arbic said Purdue can work with other Big Ten campuses and their veterans services offices.

"We are the only conference in the country that has that kind of collaboration between the veteran services offices," Arbic said.

Purdue's Veteran Success Center is located on the second floor of Purdue Memorial Union.

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