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UF Designated 2016 Military Friendly University

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At 52 years old, Kenn Cobb holds many titles.

He’s a father, a grandfather, a husband and a leader in his family. He became a U.S. Marine troop in 1981 before adding National Guard to the list in 1989.

Most importantly, Cobb said, he is a junior at the University of Florida’s School of Architecture and will graduate with his Bachelor of Design in May 2017.

“I’ve been around the world, but most of the places that I’ve seen weren’t the best places,” he said. The Gainesville native has served in Israel, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. “I’ve always come back to Gainesville. Always.”

When his GI benefits were extended after 9/11, Cobb took the first chance he could to build on his education at UF in the summer of 2014 — all while employed and enjoying a 17-year marriage to his wife and time with his two sons, daughter and five-year-old grandson.

Despite overwhelming responsibilities, Cobb and about 800 veterans and 200 active-duty military personnel enrolled as students at UF this semester aren’t on their own.

UF was named a 2016 Military Friendly School Thursday after participating in a school-wide survey and selection process instituted by Victory Media, an organization known for publishing resources for veterans such as G.I. Jobs.

The survey, which was sent out to more than 10,000 universities, colleges and trade schools nationwide, assesses resources and policies directed at actively serving or veteran students.

Institutions are evaluated on categories including academic credibility, support on campus, admission, graduation and retention rates, tuition assistance and total number of veterans attending, according to Military Friendly’s methodology webpage.

This is the first time that UF has participated in the survey and has been designated as Military Friendly, said UF spokesman Steve Orlando. UF is among 68 schools in Florida that were selected for the distinction.

Members of the Collegiate Veterans Society meet in the Collegiate Veterans Success Center. In an email, Orlando said resources including the Collegiate Veterans Success Center, Office of Veteran Services, Collegiate Veterans Society, the Student Veterans Success Committee and a VetSuccess Counselor are in place for veterans at the university. Photo courtesy of Randall Martin.
Members of the Collegiate Veterans Society meet in the Collegiate Veterans Success Center. In an email, Orlando said resources including the Collegiate Veterans Success Center, Office of Veteran Services, Collegiate Veterans Society, the Student Veterans Success Committee and a VetSuccess Counselor are in place for veterans at the university. Photo courtesy of Randall Martin.

The Military Friendly survey was an opportunity to let veterans know about key resources, Orlando said. It was not in response to incidents involving former Zeta Beta Tau fraternity members in April, he said.

Alan Ferry, the 28-year-old president of the UF Collegiate Veterans Society, is in his fourth year as an aerospace engineering undergraduate. He said attending UF was always in his plans after leaving the Air Force.

“They gave you a list of vet-friendly schools. I opened it up, flipped to Florida and saw that UF wasn’t on the list,” said Ferry, describing the day when the military explained his benefits and the GI Bill to him. “We’re a very visible school, especially compared with others in the state. For us to not be on that list was glaring. Our programs are great, no doubt, but being not vet-friendly could scare people off.”

After serving in the Marine Corps and attending Santa Fe College in 2006, Randall Martin noticed the growth of resources for veterans in his undergraduate studies at UF.

It wasn’t until he returned to UF as a master’s student in the soil and water science department that the 31-year-old recognized the needs of student veterans and got involved as the treasurer of the Collegiate Veterans Society.

“We’re coming here as juniors or seniors, which is different from everyone else who might come to the university for the first time,” he said. “There’s only two years here for these students and before now, there wasn’t any centralized meeting place. It definitely changed how we do business.”

While the Collegiate Veterans Society has been active since 2006, Ferry and Martin believe UF has been able to earn the Military Friendly designation because of recent collaboration.

Five years ago, Ferry said, the Veterans Success Center didn’t exist. Both Ferry and Martin praised VetSuccess counselor Charlotte Kemper for personalizing veteran resources and helping veterans with individual problems.

“Looking for a place to go? We have the Center. Someone to help you? We have Charlotte and the society and the affairs office,” Martin said. “Large projects, such as the center, and even smaller projects just require someone to say something, and it gets done now.”

Cobb said he believes that veteran resources brings much-needed relief in financial affairs, monitoring disabilities and overall training to help veterans and those actively serving.

Veterans and students gather for a photo on Memorial Day 2015. “The training that we do, we have to recognize that someone is struggling,” said Cobb, who joined the Collegiate Veterans Success Center’s staff when he began his studies at UF. “A lot of these students have all been in combat zones, a whole different light of experiences that an average college student isn’t exposed to, and hopefully will never be.” Photo courtesy of Randall Martin.
Veterans and students gather for a photo on Memorial Day 2015. “The training that we do, we have to recognize that someone is struggling,” Cobb said.“A lot of these students have all been in combat zones, a whole different light of experiences that an average college student isn’t exposed to and hopefully will never be.” Photo courtesy of Randall Martin.

Cobb hopes the Military Friendly designation will inspire further growth.

“Veterans are a peculiar bunch that see any kind of outside help as a weakness, and warriors don’t want to show any weakness,” he said. “It takes a keen eye and ear to listen and see when someone needs help.”

About Zee Krstic

Zee is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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