During his first year as assistant director of financial aid and scholarships for veterans’ affairs at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, Michael Black began to acquaint himself thoroughly with its many student support services. His goal? To help student veterans achieve their goals — “in any way possible.”
Black found that for his many online students, these services were available electronically.
In this interview, Black and Jim Mills, assistant director of Ball State’s Learning Center, talk about the importance of using peer tutoring, study skills strategies, and supplemental study sessions that are available.
Q: How do you help active military and veteran students connect to the university’s multiple student services?
Black: The best way for me to do this is to get to know as many of the services provided as possible. Each day I am learning of new programs designed to help students. When I learn of one, I reach out to [program personnel] to get to know what they can provide.
Q: Are there services that you tell military students that they must take advantage of?
Black: Ball State’s Learning Center has a number of programs that match the needs of our student veterans. There is the Online Study Skills Workshops with its five modules: understanding the course syllabus; time management; faculty interaction and campus resources; and goal setting and test taking. There are also video tutorials on topics in a variety of subjects. Another area is “Resources for Online Classes” that includes FAQs for Online Classes, Tips for Online Tests, Citation Resources, and University Resources.
Mills: I focus more on identifying a contact person who is willing and open to meeting with students who have questions and need to use the resources they maintain. I always defer to the experts!
Q: How does the university accommodate students when they are deployed?
Black: Ball State provides added support at the instructor level, where I say, “the rubber meets the road.” Most of the time the student works directly with the instructor with any issues that may come up due to deployment responsibilities. Typically, with today’s technology, those deployed have the ability to maintain their status in classes and complete the assigned work as well. Advising does a good job of planning up front with scheduling. And the time invested up front pays great dividends when students deploy.
Mills: Advising is very flexible with students who will be deployed when it comes time to register for the upcoming semester. If the student can’t make it to an in-person appointment, we are always willing to have phone appointments or, more often, e-mail conversations.
Q: In what other ways is Ball State University military friendly?
Black: There is a core group of folks who meet to address student veterans’ issues and to ensure that we are on the right path to benefit both the university and the students. Almost every department or office has someone who is committed to work directly with veterans. The Career Center, Admissions, Registrar’s office, Student Advising, Student Disability Services, to name a few, all have staff members who work individually with veterans.
And each semester I host a meeting with a group I call “Veterans Stakeholders” from across campus. We discuss issues facing current student veterans and how we can leverage services to help fill an unmet need. Our office works directly with the Student Veterans Organization [SVO], so if there is a resource or if there is information that we can’t provide, we can direct the question to the SVO where there are peers who are there to assist in any way possible.
Q: How is faculty supportive of military students and veterans?
Black: There are numerous Ball State faculty members who are veterans and, yes, they really make a difference for actively serving members and veterans. I have taken the first year here to establish a good foundation to support student veterans, and now I am in contact with a few faculty veterans. But I believe that list will begin to grow quickly!