Arizona State University will honor America’s men and women in uniform, past and present, and their families during the annual Salute to Service celebration held across the university's campuses Monday through Veterans Day.
Organized by ASU’s Alumni Association and the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, Salute to Service is a yearly university tradition to pay homage to the nation’s veterans through special recognition and service-themed events.
ASU President Michael Crow in a Salute to Service video message to the university community thanked all who have served and underscored the impact of military service.
“This is our time when we step back from our day-to-day life here at the university, and we recognize all of those who have sacrificed and served our country so that we might be here,” Crow said. “So that we might be free to advance our ideas, free to advance our thinking, free to work on whatever problem or project that we want to work on, free to do whatever we’d like to do.”
ASU students, faculty and staff have organized more than 20 events across all Valley campuses, ranging from letter-writing projects to panel discussions with senior military leaders to Sun Devil Athletics events where veterans and military families will be recognized.
“The energy is crazy on Salute to Service,” said ASU student Oksanna Scheidt, who grew up in a Navy family, works part time in the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and has attended previous Salute to Service activities including the ASU vs. Oregon football game in 2015. “I helped unfurl the flag last year, and it was so much fun. They provide those opportunities not just for the military personnel but the family members as well. It’s a really nice bonding experience for everybody.”
The event is scheduled to coincide with Veterans Day, and there will be no shortage of events for the public.
“I think we have a good reflection of programming on each of our different campuses,” said Steve Borden, Pat Tillman veterans director and former Navy captain. “Different schools and colleges have come up with different ways of not only thanking veterans on those respective campuses and welcoming them, but also in ways of recognizing some of the research and other aspects of interaction between the institution, our military branches and the Department of Defense.
“It speaks to trying to connect veterans with the heart of ASU, and to use the Pat Tillman Veterans Center as a way of doing that. Our veterans have volunteered to serve their country, and they’ve been successful. We believe they can come here to ASU and succeed as well.”
“Bound by service, driven by innovation” is this year’s Salute to Service theme — one that resonates strongly with the ASU office responsible for the success of all military-affiliated students using Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits.
The Pat Tillman Veterans Center constantly pursues innovative approaches to better assist the more than 5,200 military-affiliated students at ASU, and it’s not always about technology.
“Innovation is about taking a different approach to doing things,” said Borden. “It’s how we address each individual veteran with their needs and trying to figure out what’s going to help them be successful. That’s where innovation comes in — taking an individual approach to meeting veterans where they are and helping them map out success, whatever that means for them.”
University veteran centers can often just be places for veterans to congregate and where a small staff of people process the VA benefits for students. But ASU’s approach goes beyond the basics. It’s holistic, said Michelle Loposky, Pat Tillman Veterans Center military advocate and Army veteran.
“We want people to know our veterans aren’t just a number; the center is not just transactional,” Loposky said. “Veterans are individuals. And there are multi-layers of who they are, and we want to tap into all of that so they can be successful at school and in life.”
Among the center’s most recent initiatives are the implementation of student veteran outreach teams that stay connected with first-year students, answering their questions and guiding them as they transition from military to college life. This year the center also incited the creation of a women’s veterans club as a way to expand student interests beyond the classroom and provide a mechanism for them to engage with other university groups and initiatives, Loposky said.
On the more technological side of innovation, the center is working to further automate the process by which veterans sign up for classes, Borden said. Testing of the new initiatives is slated for next spring with possible implementation of new and more efficient procedures as early as next summer.
Through a deliberate path to enable military student success and embracing defense-related research, ASU has earned a reputation as one of the best schools for veterans. Subsequently, military student enrollment has increased by 15 percent each year for the past three years.
“I do see a continued increase for a reason,” Borden said. “ASU has fantastic programs, both on campus and online. I think it’s going to allow us to continue to grow at some pretty incredible rates.”
For more information about Salute to Service, visit the website here.
Steve Borden, Arizona State University Pat Tillman Veterans Center director, has been selected to be the grand marshal for the East Valley Veterans Day Parade in the city of Mesa at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11.