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The Pat Tillman Veterans Center organizes welcome events for student veterans prior to the start of every semester, but on Friday in Tempe for the first time the center held an event geared toward military veteran families of incoming Sun Devils.
Many of Arizona State University’s nearly 8,200 military-affiliated students are immediate family members using education benefits transferred to them from their former or current military parent or spouse, which is a unique feature of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Steve Borden, Pat Tillman Veterans Center director, welcomed nearly 60 families and new students who traveled from across the globe and the U.S., including such faraway places as England; Portland, Maine; Burlington, Vermont; and Buffalo, New York.
“I’m here to tell you as a Navy veteran that President Crow values our military families,” Borden said of ASU President Michael M. Crow. “He is from one. His dad was a Navy chief. He understands and gets the challenges that go along with this.”
Borden explained that the Pat Tillman Veterans Center is not about transactions but about relationships and helping students succeed.
“That’s what we want to make sure everyone here is connected with, a pathway to success,” Borden said. “That goes beyond the benefits. The Pat Tillman Veterans Center is the place where a lot of our veteran dependents who are using benefits can get work-study positions. We connect them with research opportunities, or at least help them figure out in their school or college how to get connected with research opportunities.”
ASU also has great internship and study abroad programs, Borden said. The Pat Tillman Veterans Center can help students find these opportunities.
Friday’s event included an in-depth explanation of Veterans Affairs education benefits by Troy Rundle, the ASU on-site VetSuccess on Campus representative. Rundle covered the different forms required by the VA, timelines, program policies and the many other aspects of remaining eligible for education benefits.
Marine student veteran Ryan Wadding led a panel of three second-year military veteran family students who provided valuable tips. Some of their advice included applying for campus work-study programs, which pay and provide flexible schedules; finding classrooms before the first time going to class; applying for the many available scholarships every year; staying connected to MyASU, the campus information portal; using all available resources, such as tutoring centers; and getting involved in clubs to network and find job and internship opportunities.
Wadding also dispelled one of the myths regarding the veterans center and part of the reason behind Friday’s family event.
“The Pat Tillman Veterans Center is not just for veterans, it is for all students who are part of the military family,” Wadding said. “We want them to know that if they have questions about anything, not even just related to the GI Bill, that they can come and they can talk to us and we’ll get them headed in the right direction.”
Shawn Banzhaf, military advocate with the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, closed out the welcome event by recognizing the parents for giving their families the opportunity for a higher education through the GI Bill, and by emphasizing the support that awaits all military-affiliated students.
“Welcome to the Sun Devil vets family,” Banzhaf told the new students. “This is your new family. Don’t feel like ‘Oh, I’m not a veteran so I can’t come down to the Tillman Center and hang out.’ Oh yes, please come down. Have a cup of coffee on us.”
Even if it is just to blow off steam, Banzhaf encourages all military-affiliated students to become regulars at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center. It doesn’t matter whether students are daughters, sons or spouses of veterans.
“They are not alone here,” Banzhaf said. “We are a family away from home for your student. Family matters.”
In addition to the military family welcome event Friday in Tempe, other welcome events for new student veterans are scheduled for Aug. 13 in Tempe; Aug. 14 on the West and Downtown Phoenix campuses; and Aug. 15 at the Polytechnic campus.
Top photo: (From left) ASU students and GI Bill benefit recipients Mikayla Kolb (marketing sophomore), Cynclair Henderson (supply chain management sophomore) and Julia Phillips (biology sophomore) answer questions about life at ASU during a military families welcome event hosted by the Pat Tillman Veterans Center on Aug. 10, which included a session about GI Bill education benefits. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now