Despite national trend Lynn student vets seem as engaged as other students, says Dean

Trend reported in national survey says veterans returning to school are less engaged than traditional students

Published Nov. 08, 2010

United States Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Johnson is the dean of Lynn University’s Burton D. Morgan School of Aeronautics. In addition, he serves as the primary advisor and mentor for incoming military veteran students at Lynn. Despite trends seen in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) that says most veteran students are less engaged, Johnson says, “our vet students are very much like the rest of the Lynn population.”

Results from this year’s survey were released on Thursday, Nov. 4. According to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Most veterans report the same level of satisfaction as their peers, but they tend to interact less often with faculty, according to the survey, and they report less reflective learning.”

“Based on these results,” the report says, “baccalaureate-granting institutions should seek ways to more effectively engage student veterans in effective educational practices and provide them with the supportive environments that promote success.”

Jeff Johnson

Lt. Col. Jeff Johnson, Dean of Lynn’s School of Aeronautics

To help veterans become more integrated in the campus life, researchers say more support programs need to be initiated at universities. Lynn has a variety of programs already in place.

“We have a veteran’s affairs committee made up of representatives from most offices and divisions at Lynn that meets once a month,” says Johnson. “The purpose of the committee is to identify veterans' needs and implement programs to meet them. We now offer a variety of services especially designed to service and meet the unique needs of veterans.”

In particular, Lynn developed this useful Guide for Veterans to help them through the application process. All veterans at Lynn are initially mentored and advised by Johnson. In addition, Lynn waives the application fee for vets and has a dedicated financial aid specialist that works directly with the VA to ensure Lynn's vet students get their full VA entitlement.

Although veterans made up only 3.4 percent of the overall survey respondents this year, the number of participating veteran students is expected to rise due to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program, which will help veterans pay for their education. Through Lynn’s participation in these two government programs, post 9-11 military veterans can get their bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees at Lynn tuition- and fee-free.

Several Lynn students have taken advantage of these benefits:

  • Yolanda Martinez, a veteran (actively served from January 1999 to August 2003) is pursuing her undergraduate degree in business followed by an MBA at Lynn. “Before the Yellow Ribbon program I didn’t think I could further my education. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for my student loans,” said Martinez. “It was like a miracle when it came out. In this economy, being a veteran you need an education. Now, we have an upper hand in that, especially with this program.”
  • Jack Slotnick, Lynn’s 84-year-old, Purple Heart veteran who came to the university as a freshman in 2009 is also taking advantage of these benefits. Slotnick has received national attention from the media since he began his studies at Lynn. He first appeared in the Sun-Sentinel saying “you really are a dumb-dumb” for not going back to school, then in the Palm Beach Post as the “Octogenarian refuses to ’stagnate’,” next Slotnick went live on ABC West Palm and NBC Miami. After he was a star in the local news – national reporters became interested. Slotnick appeared on Fox’s America’s Newsroom where Jack was pegged as the “World’s Oldest Freshman,” on CNN and on NBC’s Today Show where he can be seen shooting hoops with Lynn’s basketball team.
  • Jose Negron, a 47-year-old retired veteran whose education was “rescued” by disabled FBI agent.

More on Jeff Johnson:

Jeff Johnson, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve, oversees the School of Aeronautics at Lynn. In this role, he regularly speaks to media surrounding flight training, Air Force ROTC in South Florida, the importance of merging a business degree with licenses in aviation and veterans returning to college.