Colorado State University ranks fifth nationally among public universities and No. 1 in Colorado in the 2019 Military Times “Best for Vets” rankings.
The magazine noted CSU’s wide-ranging commitment to the success of student-veterans and their families, from one-on-one peer mentorship, to the New Start for Student Veterans program in the College of Health and Human Sciences, to $10.8 million in private educational support over the past five years that helps fill gaps not covered by GI Bill funds. CSU ranks sixth among all four-year schools.
“This ranking is very, very gratifying,” said Marc Barker, director of CSU’s Adult Learner and Veteran Services program. “It’s validation of the work that’s being done by our entire campus community to serve our student-veterans. That starts at the top with our president, Tony Frank, who understands the value of having veterans on our campus, and that makes a huge difference.”
Growing community of veterans
CSU’s growing reputation as a veteran-friendly campus has helped boost enrollment of veterans and their families. A record 178 new military-related students – a 41 percent increase in just one year – were welcomed to campus in the fall.
Marie Russell, an active member of the National Guard who is about to complete “a 10-year journey to graduation” when she earns her degree in psychology in December, said CSU offers support beyond any she has seen – and this is her fourth college.
“Honestly, CSU saved me,” said Russell, who is married with an 8-year-old son and has been in the National Guard since 2013. “The thing that makes CSU different is the support beyond the classroom. The people here are so connected with the students, and they have created a supportive community where you can be around people with a similar life experience.
“Honestly, the resources here are non-stop, and that really pays off when you’re trying to juggle family life, military life and student life.”
Finding a home at CSU
After graduation the Salida, Colo., native will begin work on a master’s degree. She will participate CSU’s Army ROTC program and hopes to be commissioned an officer.
Glenn Brink spent 14 years in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of staff sergeant while serving two tours of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was medically retired in 2010 after being hit by IEDs three times and suffering from PTSD, a traumatic brain injury and numerous other issues.
The Rawlins, Wyo., native spent five years recovering from his injuries and reacclimating with society. When he moved to Loveland in 2014 he started looking at colleges and discovered that CSU has a highly regarded construction management program. He enrolled in fall of 2015 and, after just 3½ years, will graduate in December.
“CSU has been awesome; I was impressed from the very first time I visited – something that didn’t happen very much at the time because I found the bad in everything in those days,” he said. “I knew I was going to need some extra help to navigate college, so I was proactive in seeking out all of the services available.”
Building a future through education
Brink, who spent nearly five years in relative isolation during his recovery, became president of CSU’s Student Veteran Organization and helped form a new club called Vet Net in construction management. Last spring, he was a team leader in CSU’s iconic CM Cares program; he and his fellow students added three bedrooms and a bathroom to an unfinished basement for a Fort Collins family in need.
“The thing I really like about CSU is they don’t baby veterans, but they do provide you with all the resources to be as successful as you want to be,” he said. “They go above and beyond for vets.”
Brink had his choice of four job offers and will begin work for a Fort Collins construction firm following graduation.
Barker said the success of veterans like Russell and Brink are due to CSU’s commitment to finding the best in all of its military-related students.
“We call it out value-based model,” he said. “Rather than look at any shortcomings or challenges a student might have, we look at the strengths they bring to campus. It’s a different mindset from other institutions, but the reality is that our students thrive in that type of environment, and it breeds success.”
CSU currently is seeking donations to expand the current ALVS space at the Lory Student Center to better serve the expanding student-veteran population.