SEPTEMBER 19, 2022 — UTSA was once again recognized for its commitment to supporting military-affiliated students by Military Times, which included the university in its 2022 list of Best for Vets: Colleges. This year, however, UTSA made a huge leap in the national Best for Vets rankings, appearing 90 spots higher than its placement in 2021.
Last year, UTSA was slotted at 121st overall and 8th in Texas in the comprehensive ranking of colleges and universities that best serve military service members and veterans. This year, UTSA came in at 31st overall and 4th in Texas.
More than 300 institutions were evaluated through the latest Best for Vets: Colleges survey, which included more than 70 questions seeking details about each school’s services and programs specific to military students—whether they’re active-duty, veterans or families and dependents of service members. Student success metrics were the most important factor in determining the ranking of schools on this year’s list, followed closely by the range of military-specific resources and the level of financial assistance they offer. Admissions, registration policies and human resources also factored into the rankings.
Michael Logan ’10, M.Ed. ’11, Ph.D. ’19, UTSA’s senior director of the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (VMA), said that several achievements throughout the past year have facilitated the success of UTSA’s military-affiliated students and the university’s rise up the rankings.
VMA encompasses federal and state benefit certification, the Military Affiliated Collaborative and the UTSA Center for Military Affiliated Students, which serves more than 5,000 service members, veterans and their families so they may achieve their educational goals. One key achievement, Logan said, was a major digital refresh. VMA expanded its presence on social media and the UTSA Mobile app to reach more of its target population in addition to a total revamp of the university’s website for military-affiliated students, making it easier for those 5,000+ students to effectively navigate and utilize military education benefits.
“Understanding that the vast majority of our veterans are first-generation students, we redesigned our website to streamline and highlight the most important information,” Logan explained.
VMA also collaborated with other UTSA departments such as Financial Aid, Fiscal Services and the Office of the Registrar to create back-office processes that improved accuracy, speed and made the experience more seamless for military-affiliated students.
Expanding outreach and engagement activities has been another important focus for the VMA team since 2021. Logan said that the large open house known as UTSA Day has now become an “all-hands event” for his staff, which also hosts workshops for each military education benefit the university offers every semester. His team has created video walkthroughs and has made staff available to collaborate with Admissions for valuable information sessions. Most notably, UTSA’s Coffee with Vets networking events have become more popular than ever.
“The growth of Coffee with Vets has led to a boom in community-building, as it is attended not only by UTSA student veterans, but also faculty, staff and community members like Judge Peter Sakai and State Senator José Menendez,” Logan said. “It quickly becomes a standing room-only event.”
About 16% of the university’s students are affiliated with the military, including active-duty military members, veterans, reserves/guards, and their spouses and dependents. With this in mind, UTSA aims to reach more of these students “where they are,” Logan said, through the soon-to-be-launched Military Community Ambassador (MCA) program. MCAs will get financial literacy training from the university’s One Stop Enrollment Center to supplement their knowledge about military education benefits, with the goal of providing representatives who are a truly comprehensive information resource for military-affiliated students. These ambassadors will then be embedded at UTSA’s six College Student Success Centers.
This momentum builds upon UTSA’s recognition as a 2022-23 Gold Military Friendly School just months ago. In recent years, the university consolidated its many veteran services within the Center for Military Affiliated Students, located on the first floor of the John Peace Library, to guide UTSA’s military community to network, socialize, discover benefits and more easily navigate the university. New programming, such as priority registration and tailored orientation for veterans, veteran resource fairs and professional development and wellness workshops, was also developed during that time.
UTSA is consistently recognized for this unique consolidated model that brings together all military-affiliated services under a single administrative umbrella. Logan said he takes pride in the latest Best for Vets ranking and the university’s vast efforts to support military-affiliated students, which started under UTSA’s founding director of veteran and military affairs, retired U.S. Air Force Col. Lisa Carrington Firmin, and will continue to evolve under Logan’s leadership.
“As a veteran and three-time UTSA alum, I am keenly aware of the challenges our students face and I take very personally the responsibility of creating a legacy of veteran support and inclusiveness at my alma mater,” Logan said. “I could not be more proud of the collaborative efforts of VMA staff and UTSA’s student veterans, which have been nothing short of herculean, in striving to be the model for veteran and military-affiliated support in higher education.”
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