For policies that include a veterans center and staff person whose job is to assist students who are veterans, Sheridan College and its Gillette campus have been named a 2014 Military Friendly School.
The honor is conferred annually by Victory Media to the top 20 percent of the colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to help students who are military service members, veterans and spouses. Victory Media is considered the premier media entity for military personnel transitioning into civilian life.
Sheridan College Director for Veterans Brett Burtis says this is the second time the honor has been given to the Northern Wyoming Community College District, which administers the college and its Gillette campus. Burtis described his feelings about the special designation and the college program.
He says the program to assist veterans attending college in Sheridan and Gillette began in the fall of 2011 when Sheridan College President Paul Young and the district's board of trustees decided to launch a program aimed at meeting the needs of veterans, many of whom are older than traditional college students and are dealing with the stress of transitioning from military to civilian life as well as the stress of transitioning into college.
In that first year, he says, 75 or 80 veterans and dependents enrolled at Sheridan College. Veteran enrollments in the past two semesters has averaged 120.
Burtis says, “Veterans can feel alienated on campus. They're often older, 26 or 27, sitting in a room with 18 and 19-year-olds.” Part of the college district's goal is to help veterans connect with other veterans on campus.
Burtis, himself a retired Marine with 20 years of military service before he and his family moved to the Sheridan area, says his duties include admissions counseling and advising as well as assisting veterans eligible for the GI Bill and other services.
His office is at Sheridan College, but he visits the Gillette campus every Wednesday. Both the Sheridan and Gillette campuses have veterans' clubs, and a Gillette faculty member who is a veteran administers the club there.
Burtis' office is currently in the Griffith Building at Sheridan College, adjacent to the veterans' center. Both will be moved into the Thorne Rider Campus Center when that building is completed next fall. The veterans' center includes a kitchenette, lounge and study area and a computer room where veteran students can work on class assignments, visit with friends, fix a meal or just hang out between classes.
In addition to facilities on campus, Sheridan College's web site has a page dedicated to its services for veterans.
Dr. Young, himself a veteran, says veterans are an important part of Sheridan College's history, beginning when the college was founded in 1948 in part to accommodate those returning from World War II.