North Central College - Naperville, IL

Veteran students share experiences during workshop

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Jerry Gems, Michael Dooley, James Davidson, Chris LeClair
Jerry Gems, Michael Dooley, James Davidson, Chris LeClair

North Central College held a Veteran Students Workshop for faculty and staff on Dec. 2 to learn about the experiences of students with a military background and how the campus community can best support their adjustment back to academic and civilian life. The workshop featured guest speakers and a panel of North Central faculty and students who are veterans.  

Kimberly Sluis, dean of students, opened the session with a video screening by that presented stories about issues veterans face when returning from active service. She noted the growth of students who are veterans at North Central—from seven in fall 2006 to 23 in fall 2011—and reasons for the increase. She cited a rise in national statistics and the College’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon program since 2009. Under the program, veterans’ tuition and fees are paid 100 percent; after benefits are paid by the Post-9/11 GI Bill, North Central covers the balance.

The workshop featured a Q&A session among those attending and a panel of North Central College student veterans—senior English/print journalism major Michael Dooley, junior chemistry major James Davidson, and freshman political science major Chris LeClair—and Professor of Health and Physical Education Jerry Gems, who served in Vietnam.

Panel members were asked about ways the College could help in planning their careers and supporting them after graduation. They said connections with internships and job openings were important to them and help identifying skills learned during military service and transferring those to civilian life, especially when it comes to creating resumes. Each one said they enjoy talking with faculty members about adult things and being treated like everyone else, or normal.

All three responded to a final question about what they’d want to hear from an admission person during a college fair: “Tell us that private school is possible,” and suggested posting a sign: “Veterans, the other half is covered!”

Guest speakers for the workshop were Scott Peska and Anna Stevens from Northern Illinois University’s (NIU) Veterans and Military Personnel Student Services. They shared national trends, common experiences expressed by veterans, and best practices for campuses when serving veteran students.

Sluis said North Central College has already implemented some national best practices. They include a resource team and trained admission staff to support veteran students and implementation of a dedicated webpage at The College also secured funding from the Aurora Foundation of Fairfax, Va., to support the workshop and a peer mentoring program.

For more information about financial and educational benefits for student veterans at North Central College, visit