Member Org Spotlight: Lewis University

Posted by

IJF supports and uplifts our member organizations, and this includes highlighting the important and innovative work they are doing every day. We will be profiling member organizations on our blog through an ongoing series. We hope to inspire conversation and connection between member organizations, the communities they serve, and anyone else who is passionate about ensuring no veteran, service member or a family member falls through the cracks. Lewis University is a non-profit Catholic University located in Romeoville. More than 553 Lewis University students are Active Duty, Reserve, Cadet, and Family Members using G.I. Bill benefits or Veterans. Many of the students of Lewis University participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Funded through Lewis University and the Department of Veteran Affairs, this program provides 100 percent of student tuition expenses if they have 100 percent level of Post 9/11 entitlement. We recently spoke with Director of Veterans Affairs and Recruitment at Lewis University, Roman Ortega Jr., about how he works with student veterans to ensure success. Tell us a little about yourself I have been in the service for 18 years, served about 11 years on active duty in the U.S. Army and 7 in the U.S. Army Reserve. Half of my time was in the infantry, and the other half was in military intelligence. I did deployment overseas in multiple capacities ranging from combat to humanitarian aid. I got my master’s degree at Lewis University while on active duty in the U.S. Army.  What is your philosophy behind how you provide services to students? I try to focus on a wraparound service model: Social, Academic, Financial, Community, and Career. Many veterans transitioning out of the military want to go to school and then move back into careers. We have a team of 11 of us that strive to do the best in providing support during a potentially challenging transition. What does wrap-around service model mean? We help them with the most fundamental questions regarding admission and application process, we assist them to get registered, we enable access to benefits while in school. We also provide support through a student veteran group and a Vet Ally program which helps faculty and staff support veteran students. Then we empower them with employment opportunities to make sure they are set up for success upon graduation. Can you tell us about any advantages student veterans have? On average, student veterans tend to have a slightly higher graduation rate than civilians at Lewis. They tend to do well academically and in leadership roles at the University. The retention and persistence rate at Lewis University is over 80 percent for our student veterans, which is well above the national average for higher education. Their loan and debt rate are also very low which means they are graduating with less financial burden. What about any unique challenges student veterans face? We have student veterans who have families. They are typically married. They often have a part-time job or full-time job. They have got a lot to balance. They are very cognizant of their time, and what they are going to do with that time. Sometimes this equates to less participation in campus activities comparatively speaking to the traditional student. That is the biggest challenge. Thank you to Roman Ortega for speaking with us! Check out Lewis University on their website, Facebook, or Twitter.            

Hot Topics: Veteran Art Projects You Should Check Out

Posted by

In our “Hot Topics” series, we aim to amplify veteran and military stories and trends in the news, whether these be heavily covered national issues or local stories. From topics such as changes in the Navy rating system to the growing trend of veteran owned breweries, the goal of this series is to spark conversation and awareness of military and veteran issues today. Veterans and art. Think these two words don’t have much in common? Think again. This post is the first of a series about contemporary art projects relating to veterans. Stay tuned for more! The Veteran Vision Project The Veteran Vision Project is a photo essay by photographer Devin Mitchell. The photographs feature service members looking in the mirror. Sounds simple, right? The catch is that one of the images of the service member depicts them in their uniform, while in the other they are in civilian attire. Whether through a sari or a football uniform, an easel or a skateboard, or a break dancing pose, the image of the service member in civilian clothing showcases their personality quirks and hobbies. Mitchell told Mic that he hopes these photographs help people “come away with a better understanding” of those who fight in America’s wars, and draw attention to the fact that veterans are individuals with a wide variety of interests and personalities. Check out the Veteran Vision Project website to see the photographs. 12186277_788962461249218_1570399307914932433_o source: Veteran Vision Project Facebook Page