In gratitude this Veterans Day

A guest post from Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor in honor of Veterans Day

When we speak about veterans or military-connected students in higher education, I’ve found the focus is often on their challenges rather than the attributes they bring to the community. When I think about these students – nearly 900 at UW–Madison – I see amazing examples of resilience and I am struck with gratitude at the depth of life experience they infuse into our classrooms and UW community.

Veterans bring a unique perspective to college and university campuses. They comprise only 3-4 percent of the student population at higher education institutions in the U.S. but are a diverse population in terms of race, ethnic background, culture, values, occupations, and aspirations. Many are older and have experienced international conflict and the front lines of humanitarian aid in ways most of us never have.

Our students represent the U.S. armed forces: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, as well as the Wisconsin Army National Guard and Air National Guard. A majority of veteran and military-connected students in the U.S. are the first in their families to attend college, yet they are unmatched in their perseverance and commitment to succeed.

Many of our National Guard students have been on active duty since spring – training, researching, and testing for COVID-19 to support our health care workers and to help control the spread of the pandemic in Wisconsin, helping to ensure integrity at the polls, and much more. They take on this service while juggling the rigors of school and, in some cases managing family responsibilities or medical issues.

So beyond saying, “Thank you for your service,” this year, I want to be specific in gratitude for what you bring to our UW community. Thank you for enhancing our campus diversity and learning. Thank you for your contributions and lasting impact at UW-Madison and beyond. Thank you for showing up each day – in the classroom and on the ground – giving us all the opportunity to learn by your example and your experience.

You enrich our UW community; we are here to support you; and we are proud you chose to be Badgers.

On, Wisconsin!

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