BGSU learning community members highlight University’s support for military and veteran students in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Highlighting the continued ranking as the No. 1 university in the Midwest for veteran and active military students, members of the Bowling Green State University learning community recently met with Ohio lawmakers in Columbus to discuss the many ways the University supports military-affiliated students with its mission of higher education.

BGSU students and Ohio Army National Guard soldiers Madelyn Goodale and Joshua Tinney shared their experiences throughout Military Student Advocacy Day, giving lawmakers a glimpse of how the University supports students like themselves and how an adapt, overcome and excel mindset extends from the military to higher education.

The University has been consistently recognized by Military Times as a top academic choice for its comprehensive services, support and commitment to the success of veterans and active military students. Nationally, BGSU ranks No. 11 in the largest and most comprehensive ranking of military-friendly institutions.

The students along with Dr. Barbara Henry, assistant vice president of Nontraditional and Military Student Services, and Geoff Roberts, military program coordinator, discussed their experiences and the University’s mission during seven meetings in Columbus.

"The mission of BGSU Nontraditional and Military Student Services is built upon fully supporting our veterans and military-connected students from the moment they enroll at BGSU through their graduation," Henry said. "This involves support not only in the academic realm but also in all aspects of student success, in and out of the classroom, through our personalized, student-centered approach."

The BGSU difference

Henry said the visit to the state capital provided BGSU not only an opportunity to demonstrate to lawmakers the commitment that the University makes to military-connected students but also to offer up expertise in this area as a resource for lawmakers.

The PAVE – Peer Advising for Veteran Education – and the GEM – General Education Mobile – programs at BGSU were among the topics explored during advocacy day.

With student veterans attending college in greater numbers since the passing of the Post/9-11 GI Bill, BGSU recognized as far back as 2010 that these students needed to be supported differently since they face unique transition challenges that can affect their pursuit of higher education. The University committed to dedicating resources to ensure BGSU military and veteran students are supported every step of the way and achieve their ultimate educational and career goals.

Goodale and Tinney are peer advisors in the PAVE program, in which all service members, veterans and dependents are assigned a military peer supporter. PAVE is a peer support program that connects incoming student veterans with student veterans already on campus. PAVE peer advisors then help identify challenges that student veterans are facing and help locate appropriate resources on or off campus. They provide ongoing support to help student veterans meet academic and personal goals.

"The PAVE Program has been instrumental in ensuring new student veterans have the tools they need to be successful at BGSU. I like giving back and helping students be set up for success at BGSU," Goodale said. "I attribute a lot of my success at BGSU to Nontraditional and Military Student Services because it’s given me motivation to stay on top of my grades. While I was deployed, I always got a response from Dave Rice in the office within a day. It enabled me to take classes while deployed overseas."

BGSU was one of just three schools nationwide that were approached to participate in what was then a pilot program in 2013. The University is still making a significant impact on veterans-turned-students by providing the three crucial pillars of outreach, support and links to resources.

"I enjoy being someone who is invested in the success of student veterans in the PAVE program," Tinney said. "I appreciate that the PAVE program and NTMSS office recognize the challenges of military students and provide relief for those challenges. I like being a part of that. NTMSS provides an environment where academic success is encouraged. The office helped me to be more academically successful due to their attention on academics."

The GEM partnership with the U.S. Air Force makes it possible for Air Force personnel stationed around the world to work toward a college degree through BGSU under an agreement with the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF). This partnership streamlines the process for CCAF students to complete their general education requirements through BGSU, which allows for faster degree completion.

GEM courses – which are offered in a distance-learning format at anytime, anywhere – reduce the educational impact of deployments, permanent change of station process, and family commitments.

Legislators’ responses

During the advocacy day, Ohio legislators praised the student-led presentations and expressed support for active military and veteran students, offering to find solutions and extend assistance where possible.

Ohio Rep. Elgin Rogers Jr. (D-Toledo) hailed the support that the PAVE program provides military-connected students at BGSU.

“BGSU is in a class of its own when it comes to supporting our veterans. The PAVE program provides support and resources for the women and men who serve their country while pursuing their academic goals,” Rogers said. “BGSU meets the mark with dedicated staff and committed students who inspire us all to make our contributions to the world count! I would like to thank BGSU for giving students the support needed to develop the networks they desire to achieve success beyond college and active duty.”

Ohio Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) is a BGSU alumna herself, earning her bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University. Gavarone cited the University's approach to supporting military-connected students as a program to be emulated.

“It was a pleasure to meet two impressive military students from Bowling Green State University, who exemplify selfless service and incredible strength,” Gavarone said. “BGSU is truly inspiring these students as they pursue their next steps. Their stories underscore why BGSU is the best in the Midwest and among the top in the nation for our military students, making the institution a successful model for others across the country.”

Ohio Rep. Haraz Ghanbari (R-Perrysburg) spoke extensively with the BGSU contingent, reflecting upon the presentations with his own unique perspectives as a veteran and nontraditional student himself.

"Bowling Green State University continues to stand as an institution of higher education committed to serving our service members, veterans and their families as they transition from military service to the classroom and beyond," Ghanbari said. "As a Naval officer and former Army sergeant, I was honored to meet with my fellow veterans during their visit to the Statehouse. Through our service, we share a unique bond, and a commitment to helping the next generation of veterans have a successful transition. The future of our state will be better off in part because of those veterans who call Ohio home and invest in our communities the way so many who came before us have done over the generations."

BGSU was designated a Collegiate Purple Star campus in 2022 by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner for its efforts to support students with military backgrounds. The University was among the first group of 33 Ohio colleges and universities to receive the distinction.

Updated: 11/14/2023 11:34AM