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The UA's Veterans Education and Transition Services
The UA is hosting two information sessions this month to aid student veterans in the application process toward becoming Tillman Military Scholars.
A commitment to education, demonstrated leadership and a marked passion for service are among the tenets that bind the nation's Tillman Military Scholars, of which University of Arizona student veterans have been named.
The Pat Tillman Foundation announced the first Tillman Military Scholars in 2009 and has since provided more than $3.2 million in scholarships to undergraduates, graduates and post-doctoral students at universities across the nation.
Since then, one dozen UA students have been named Tillman Military Scholars. And with the next application round opening Jan. 14, University student veterans and their dependents are encouraged to apply.
"It's not that you had to have done something heroic, but you have to have that element of education, leadership and that continued desire to serve, and to show that through your personal story," said Cody Nicholls, Assistant Dean of Students, Veterans Education and Transition Services.
Nicholls, also the campus contact for the Pat Tillman Foundation, noted that current UA scholars are studying architecture, pharmacy, law and medicine. They engage in community-based service work and, most often, remain deeply connected to others in the military and who are veterans.
Workshops will be held Jan. 11 and Jan. 25 at the UA Veterans Education and Transition Services, or VETS Center. Both workshops will be held at 3 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Student Union Memorial Center. Veterans and their family members are welcome to attend.
Also, Tillman Military Scholar alumnus Glen Lacroix, the VETS Center's student director and a UA graduate student, will faciliate the workshops. The workshops, which are free, will inform students about how to produce a strong application.
"It's that continued desire to serve, whether it is service in the military or wherever their education that is leading them down the road, that makes a stronger application," said Nicholls, who also works with the VETS Center. "It's that compelling story of service."
Nicholls emphasized the scholarship program is just one in a list of programs, services and supports at the UA established to directly benefit veterans.
The University's push to launch and integrate such services came in the last decade, during a time when higher education institutions across the nation had begun to see an accelerated rate in applications and admissions among student veterans.
At the UA, other programs and services include: personalized GI Bill counseling for UA student veterans; the UA's exemplary Adaptive Athletics program involving veterans; the VETS Center, which incorporates student life and student organizations with resources and direct services; and for-credit courses for veterans via Supportive Education for Returning Veterans, or SERV.
Likewise, the UA maintains a partnership with Pima Community College and community-based agencies to better support student veterans. For the first time this spring, the UA is offering the SERV resiliency course within the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System for veterans.
Brian Kolfage began his service in the U.S. Air Force in 2001 when, in 2004, he was injured in a rocket attack while in Iraq, losing both his legs and his right hand. Through intense rehabilitation, he was able to return to Tucson in 2005 where, four years later, he became a Wildcat.
For Kolfage, one of the greatest benefits to being named a Tillman Military Scholar has been the financial support to purchase software programs, "which gave me a huge advantage in accelerating my work," said Kolfage, a current scholar and fourth-year architecture student.
"To have great software with the proper professional tools ultimately streamlined my work and allowed me more time to perfect my assignments rather than wasting a lot time producing it," Kolfage said, adding that, because of his injuries, he often needs additional time to complete assignments.
Kent Martin, a second-year student in the UA College of Medicine, hesitated to apply for the program his first year at the UA. But with the encouragement of friends and colleagues, he made the effort.
"I don't like talking about myself and selling myself. I like that my actions speak louder than words. And I didn't want to take the opportunity from another soldier," said Martin, who joined the U.S. Air Force in 2000.
Martin was deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom after Sept. 11. He would go on to serve until love and a shoulder injury led him to rethink his future in 2011. Having met his wife in England while overseas, Martin said he then had someone else who was always concerned about his personal safety and wanted him back home.
Born in Tucson and raised in Sierra Vista, Ariz., Martin opted to return to Southern Arizona to pursue his medical studies at the UA. Being named a Tillman Military Scholar not only carries a financial benefit but has helped him to tap into a nationwide network of scholars, business contacts and other professionals.
The additional support – the emotional and psychological support, the developing friendships across boundaries, the support of philanthropy and connections with industry and business types – has been so important to him.
"The monetary value is, of course, nice," Martin said.
"I'm a fine example of someone who was too proud and too stubborn to put in for it, but I am so glad that I did," he said. "I really want others to know that they should take the time to put in the application. It's worth it."
The UA's Veterans Education and Transition Services