The VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program: Helping veterans to the next level |
by Craig Collins
Reposted from Defense Media Network
Another institution that goes out of its way to recruit veterans is the Wake Forest University Schools of Business, whose dean, Steven Reinemund, is a former Marine Corps officer and CEO of PepsiCo. After assuming leadership of the program in 2008, Reinemund hired several former military officers. One of them is Army Reserve Lt. Col. Kevin Bender, an associate director in the admissions office.
“[Steve Reinemund] kind of put it upon the admissions group to do what we can to increase the percentage of prior service personnel in the program,” Bender said. “So through the Yellow Ribbon Program, and through other things that make us a military-friendly school . . . we are increasing what it is we have to offer here at Wake Forest, to make somebody that’s coming out of the military feel comfortable here. So we’re taking baby steps now, but we’re going to have a culture here where people with that background are going to take a serious look at us, because there will be people like them in our program.”
Andy Rinehart, a former Army ROTC, was commissioned upon earning his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University in 2005. While with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, he decided to pursue a graduate business degree. An Army captain who today serves as a captain in the North Carolina National Guard, as well as a columnist for BusinessWeek, Rinehart said an M.B.A. program seemed a logical next step in his career. “M.B.A. programs – obviously, they teach practical business skills, but they also advertise themselves as being programs that teach you how to manage people and be leaders,” he said. “And with the leadership experience I already had, it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Returning to his alma mater also seemed logical, given its reputation as both a business school and an institution that welcomed veterans. At Wake Forest, where Rinehart enrolled last year, tuition is much higher than what would be covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill in North Carolina – but the Schools of Business make sure that isn’t a problem for its veteran students. “Each school that chooses to participate in the Yellow Ribbon campaign does it slightly differently,” Rinehart said. “At Wake, their promise is: ‘Hey, we’ll make up the difference.’ So assuming that you qualify and you’re accepted into the program, Wake will cover whatever isn’t covered by your GI Bill.”
While schools such as Wake Forest aggressively pursue former military candidates for their programs, the VA’s own promotional efforts also help get the word out about the program. “Our outreach has redundancy built into it,” said the VA’s Wilson. “We begin providing information to individuals while they’re still on active duty. We do four different mailings directly to service members while they’re still on active duty. So that’s our first step: While they’re still on active duty, they learn about the program. As part of the implementation of this program, we did a separate mailing to about 2.1 million individuals who had post-9/11 service, whether they had used our benefits previously or not, to make them aware of the program. And then of course we work aggressively … to get things out on the local level.”
The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program comprise the nation’s largest investment in veterans’ education since World War II. The institutions participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program are helping to create a generation of leaders whose passions and talents will improve the quality of life for the people they ultimately serve – not just business customers, but people from every corner of American society.
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