Indiana State University Newsroom

ISU, Ivy Tech receive grant to help student veterans

June 25, 2010

Operation Diploma has awarded funding to Indiana State University and Ivy Tech Community College to expand efforts to help student service members and veterans.

A nearly $89,000 grant from the initiative of the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University, now in its second year, will allow Indiana State and Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley to work more closely with one another and with other colleges to ensure student veterans complete their degrees.

The grant will fund the hiring of a part-time veterans support coordinator for Ivy Tech's Terre Haute campus and provide a resource library for veterans that can also serve as a meeting space for a student veterans organization. Mike Caress, veterans services coordinator at Indiana State, will work closely with Ivy Tech to ensure its veterans coordinator is aware of the latest educational benefits and the two will jointly visit area military bases to alert veterans to all available benefits.

The two campuses will also develop a safety net of services with the Student Veterans Association at Indiana State assisting in establishing a similar organization at Ivy Tech. The funding will allow ISU to hire two new staff members and Ivy Tech one new staffer so the two institutions can fully utilize a work study program funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"We are proud of Indiana State University's accomplishments in reaching out to veterans and helping them start or complete a college degree and we are also proud of our longstanding partnership with Ivy Tech Community College. Since ISU and Ivy Tech already work closely together it was a natural next step for us to partner with one another in reaching out to veterans," said John Beacon, vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications at Indiana State.

In fall 2009, Indiana State had 208 student veterans enrolled, a 36 percent increase over the previous year. The number of veterans enrolled at ISU increased again for spring 2010 to 244 while Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley served 193 student veterans in the just completed- spring semester. In addition, Indiana State served 20 active duty Air Force members enrolled through a partnership with the Community College of the Air Force.

"We are pleased to have received this grant. This funding will allow us to reach out to our veteran students to improve their experience and success at Ivy Tech Community College. We look forward to an increasing number of veteran students who choose to continue their education at Ivy Tech. Anytime Ivy Tech and ISU collaborate on a project like this it is a win-win for the students and our community," said Leah Allman, vice chancellor for student affairs at Ivy Tech.

Launched with a $5.8 million gift from Lilly Endowment Inc., Operation Diploma empowers Indiana's institutions of higher education and student veterans organizations to better serve student service members, veterans entering college for the first time and those re-entering college after extended service or deployment.

More than one-third of Indiana's two- and four-year campuses submitted innovative grant proposals for Operation Diploma funding. Thirty proposals totaling more than $1 million were ultimately funded.

Indiana colleges and universities have grasped that student service members and veterans have unique attributes and have proposed creative and collaborative plans for supporting them," said Stacie Hitt, director of Operation Diploma. "The spectrum of Year 2 proposals submitted to Operation Diploma ranged from student access and transition programs to holistic retention strategies and longer-term employment initiatives. We are proud to collaborate with these institutions."

The Operation Diploma grants range from $8,500 to $100,000. In the first year of funding, award schools were granted amounts totaling more than $270,000. During a third and final year of funding, grants to individual schools of up to $50,000 will be available.

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, a professor of child development and family studies at Purdue and director of MFRI, said studies have shown that students who have served or are currently serving in the military often feel frustrated, alone and misunderstood when they arrive on campus. These grants will help promote academic success by tearing down barriers to higher education for this special group of students.

"Our hope is that some of the programs funded will become models for the state, as well as the nation," she said. "This is just one way MFRI and Operation Diploma are making a difference in the lives of military members and their families."

The Military Family Research Institute is a research and outreach organization based at Purdue University, supported by Lilly Endowment Inc., the Department of Defense, and others. Operation Diploma was created through the institute.

More information about Operation Diploma is available at

Media contacts:

Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or                                                           

Rebecca Miller, executive director of resource development, Ivy Tech Community College-Wabash Valley, 812-298-2361 or

Stacie Hitt, director, Operation Diploma, Military Family Research Institute, Purdue University, 765-494-9878 or