Student veterans find a welcoming community within Colorado State University.
Colorado State University’s commitment to creating the best possible educational environment for veterans has been rewarded with the school’s highest-ever placement in the Military Times Best For Vets Ranking.
CSU is named second in the nation in the annual rankings, moving up three spots from its previous high of No. 5 in 2019. The ranking is affirmation of the impact of the university’s efforts to make all United States military veterans feel welcome and help them reach their educational goals.
“Our commitment to our student veterans is deep and abiding, and driven by our whole community’s respect and admiration for what these individuals have done for our country and what they bring to our campus,” said President Joyce McConnell, herself the child of two U.S. military veterans. “I am so proud to see the great work we do to serve and support our student veterans recognized nationally.”
Military Times bases its rankings on responses to a 150-question survey sent to all two- and four-year schools and on feedback from student veterans. Institutions are evaluated in five categories: university culture, student support, academic policies, academic outcomes/quality, and cost and financial aid. University culture and student support carry the greatest weight in evaluations.
Those factors fit perfectly into CSU’s philosophy when it comes to veterans, said Marc Barker, CSU’s director of the Adult Learner & Veteran Services office.
“For most of these students it’s all about finding an institution that’s going to value their individual experiences while bringing them into a welcoming community,” he said. “It’s not an accident that we’ve been a top 10 school the past three years. We’re very intentional about creating a value-based model for the students.”
Veterans find a home on campus
Jose Martinez, who spent seven years in the Army as an infantry sniper – including 13 months in Afghanistan – said he thoroughly researched his options before choosing CSU to pursue his degree in social work. Now 29, the New Mexico native found a home among students who are similar in age and have gone through similar experiences in the military.
“The ALVS office provides a huge sense of community and gives you the opportunity to engage with veterans from all branches of the military,” Martinez said. “The way you are welcomed here is so impressive. I don’t know of a single veteran who has walked in this office and walked away wanting something. It’s incredible the way they treat us.”
Martinez is applying to grad school and hopes to become a licensed therapist who works with veterans.
Acacia Mohr is a senior majoring in biology. The Oregon native is active in the Army Reserves after serving four years in the Army as a veterinary technician caring for military service animals. She plans to apply for veterinary school at CSU after graduating.
Unlike Martinez, Mohr arrived knowing very little about CSU’s veteran services. She’s now an enthusiastic advocate, even serving as vice president of CSU’s Student Veterans of America chapter.
“I had never set foot in Colorado before I arrived and I didn’t have any friends here,” she said. “The ALVS made sure I was welcomed and accepted. It’s a refreshing place because I’m surrounded by people who have had similar experiences. As an older student  it’s nice to be around people my age who have similar goals. I love it here because of all the support.”
After serving in the U.S. military, Acacia Mohr (left) and Jose Martinez chose to continue their education at Colorado State.
New quarters planned
Barker said things are about to get even better for CSU’s student veterans. Plans are being finalized to create a new ALVS office to replace the cramped quarters on the northeast end of the Lory Student Center. If all goes as planned, construction will begin next summer.
“The big thing for us is additional square footage that will allow us to serve more people,” he said. “It will include study rooms for folks who need a quieter environment, and will also include services for students who are also parents. We need to be inclusive of the entire family unit.”
As for getting the word out about CSU’s veteran programs, Barker said the students themselves are the best advertising.
“I would tell any veteran that CSU is a very good school if you’re looking to continue your education,” Mohr said. “Everyone here is so helpful and welcoming, and Fort Collins has a lot to offer as well. I would definitely recommend coming here.”
The University of Texas at Arlington was ranked No. 1 by Military Times, while Colorado State University-Pueblo was ranked 36th.