SMWC Receives Grant to Promote Academic Success Among Service Members

August 10th, 2010 | SMWC

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) will use a $10,000 grant from Operation Diploma, an initiative of the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University, to develop programs and policies designed to boost academic success of student service members and veterans on campus.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College’s Operation Diploma award will improve educational access, success, and transition to career for service members. Several initiatives will include:

  • creation of an on-campus Military Family Resource Center with virtual access,
  • expansion of the current online tutoring services to include Vet-to-Vet tutoring, and
  • the addition of an online career counseling and services tailored to service members.

“Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College continues to be innovative in seeking new ways to offer personalized educational opportunities to populations who cannot attend a traditional campus program. We are eager to continue this tradition by ensuring we offer the necessary services to encourage and promote successful educational experiences for military personnel and their families worldwide,” said Dottie King, Ph.D., interim president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

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 and veterans entering college for the first time, and those re-entering college after extended service or deployment. 

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, in western Indiana, serves nearly 350 women in the residential campus program, 1,120 women and men, primarily untraditional adult undergraduates, in distance programs, and approximately 220 co-ed graduate students. The College enrolled 18 service members/veterans in Spring 2010 and an additional 21 spouses took advantage of a $3,000 SMWC Military/Veteran Spouse scholarship. More than one-third of Indiana’s two- and four-year campuses submitted innovative grant proposals. Thirty proposals totaling more than $1 million were ultimately funded. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is one of four independent colleges awarded.

“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 improved access and support of the Year 2 proposal strengthens SMWC’s commitment to educational success and lifelong learning. The plan builds on the assessment conducted in the Year 1 award, toward a system of continuous improvement of services and student learning,” said Kimberly LaComba, director of the learning resource center at SMWC and co-director for the SMWC Operation Diploma Year 2 grant award.

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.”

In addition to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the following institutions received awards:

  • Ball State University
  • Franklin College
  • Grace College and Seminary
  • Indiana State University and Ivy Tech Community College-Wabash Valley
  • Indiana University
  • Indiana University-East
  • Indiana University-Kokomo
  • Indiana University-Southeast and Ivy Tech Southern Indiana (Sellersberg)
  • Indiana University Purdue University-Ft. Wayne and Ivy Tech Northeast
  • Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
  • Ivy Tech-Bloomington
  • Ivy Tech-Central Indiana
  • Ivy Tech-Columbus
  • Ivy Tech-East Central
  • Ivy Tech-Kokomo
  • Ivy Tech-Lafayette
  • Ivy Tech-Northwest
  • Ivy Tech-Richmond
  • Ivy Tech-South Bend
  • Ivy Tech-Southeast
  • Ivy Tech-Southwest
  • Purdue University-Calumet
  • Purdue University-North Central
  • Purdue University
  • University of Evansville
  • University of Southern Indiana

Military Family Research Institute at Purdue UniversityThe 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. Through it, Operation Diploma was created.

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