Supporting our veterans

Today is when we officially celebrate Veterans Day, and as we honor our armed services veterans, we also salute the efforts of those at IU Bloomington who are working to make sure the campus is fully supporting our student veterans, current servicemen and women, and their families.

Spearheading those efforts is Margaret Baechtold, who, earlier this month, assumed the newly created position of university military and veterans service coordinator. Margaret will also continue in her current role as director of Veterans Support Services on the Bloomington campus. A retired Air Force officer and nationally recognized expert on GI Bill issues who has been called to testify before the Veterans Affairs Committee in Congress, she is now in her fifth year as director of the office, which provides direct support services to IU veteran students and advice and guidance to IU administrators on student military matters.

Margaret Baechtold has assumed the new role of university military and veterans service coordinator at IU.

Currently, Veterans Support Services processes VA education benefits for approximately 420 students each semester, two-thirds of whom are veterans. The office also offers support services such as free math tutoring, library research assistance and a first-year veterans experience course to ease students’ transition from military to college life.

At the time of this writing, Baechtold and her staff are participating in National Remembrance Day Roll Call, in which students read the names of 148 service members from the state of Indiana who lost their lives in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two of the names were of students at IU. And in a matter of minutes, her office will be observing a national moment of silence for those servicemen and servicewomen lost.

In her new role, Baechtold will continue to oversee IU’s veterans support services and resources, while also working to strengthen and increase the collaboration among IU offices that play a part in serving these students.

“We have a great opportunity to learn from each other’s programs and services, creating more supportive and helpful environments for our students across all campuses,” Baechtold says. “We also can increase the visibility of these programs and services for current and prospective students.”

A significant part of her mission will be to help ensure that IU’s military and veteran students achieve maximum success while in school and after graduation. Sadly, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 era veterans is significantly higher (currently, it stands at 10 percent) than that of the total workforce.

“For most (veterans), the solution is study and graduation from a respected, military-friendly university,” says Kirk White, IU assistant vice president for strategic partnerships and a lieutenant colonel in the Indiana Army National Guard.

“This new office will build on IU’s established strengths in veteran student services and coordinate our programs to assure student success on all eight campuses,” adds White, who also acts as military liaison for the IU Office of the President and served two tours in Afghanistan, most recently as a commander of a provisional task force responsible for base operations and force protection in Kabul.

In her new role, Baechtold will work to share support and services best practices both in Bloomington and across IU’s other campuses, and ensure that campuses are adequately developing their academic, developmental, emotional, financial and social advising and counseling programs.

She’ll also work closely with groups such as the newly reformed Student Veterans of America chapter, which is dedicated to providing assistance to military students and raising awareness of veterans issues in the community. Nationwide, the group recently urged communities and institutions to help address a post-9/11 GI Bill backlog that is hindering the ability of some student veterans to pay for their college education and support their families.

Overall, for Baechtold, the mission is simple.

“I want everyone to learn what great things Indiana University is doing for student veterans, military and their families so that IU is recognized as an institution that understands and supports them,” she says.

In this video, Baechtold provides viewers with a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the digital Golden Book exhibit at the Indiana Memorial Union. The exhibit documents the names of military veterans connected to IU who served the nation from the War of 1812 through World War II. 

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