Indiana State University Newsroom

Student Veterans Organization receives grant to benefit service members

October 2, 2009

Indiana State University's Student Veterans Organization has received a $2,000 grant from the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University. The organization will use the funds to assist and support student service members and veterans on campus.

The award was one of seven grants totaling $10,600 that were presented through Operation Diploma, an initiative launched through a $5.8 million gift from Lilly Endowment Inc. Operation Diploma empowers Indiana's higher education institutions and SVOs to better serve student service members, veterans entering college for the first time, and those re-entering college after extended service or deployment.


The Student Veterans Association is a new organization at ISU designed to unite student veterans who share some of the same struggles, excitement, and pride returning to formal education for professional and personal development. The grant will be used primarily to promote the organization and fund activities that encourage veterans' involvement at ISU.


"We are very grateful and honored to be selected for the grant and look forward to increasing student veterans' involvement around the campus and community," Jessica Ellis, president of the ISU Student Veterans Organization.

Student veterans' organizations offer social support to their members and encourage them to pursue community initiatives and service projects, such as Veterans Day events and collaborations with community organizations, said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, a professor of child development and family studies at Purdue and director of the MFRI.

"Studies have shown that students who have served or are currently serving in the military sometimes feel frustrated, alone and misunderstood when they arrive on campus" MacDermid Wadsworth said. "Student veterans' organizations are important resources to these students, because they offer social, non-academic support and camaraderie during a time when students are navigating the often-confusing landscape of financial aid, housing and student services."

A panel of industry, academic and peer judges evaluated SVO proposals from across the state according to a strict set of criteria, including quality of mission, clarity of initiatives and sustainability.

"We received a number of excellent proposals from student veterans' organizations, including the one from the students attending Indiana State University and we are pleased to award this particular grant," said Stacie Hitt, director of Operation Diploma. "We believe the mission of this SVO will make a real difference in the lives of student service members and veterans."

Operation Diploma is awarding these grants at a time when thousands of student service members and veterans are finding themselves eligible for increased education benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which went into effect Aug. 1.

The bill, expected to attract more veterans and student service members to campuses across the state and the nation, makes it even more imperative to address the needs of this growing student demographic, Hitt said.

Through the new GI Bill, eligible students may have access to benefits such as full tuition and fees for four years at a state university, monthly housing stipends and payments of up to $1,000 annually for books.

About 1,100 schools and colleges are offering additional scholarships for veterans, matched by the Veterans Administration under the Yellow Ribbon program, and Operation Diploma complements this program.

This is the second round of grants that Operation Diploma has awarded since the initiative was launched in March. In June, Operation Diploma dispersed more than $270,000 to 21 institutions of higher education across the state. Indiana State University received $2,000 of this amount.

Photos: - Iraq veteran Jessica Ellis, a member of the Indiana Air National Guard and a 2004 graduate of West Vigo High School, is president of the Student Veterans Organization at Indiana State University. - Student veterans at Indiana State University gather outside the university's John T. Myers Technology Center. ISU's Student Veterans Organization has received a $2,000 "Operation Diploma" grant, funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc., to help promote the organization and increase student-veterans' involvement in the campus and community. (ISU/Kara Berchem)