Trustees hear from veterans at Western

Paul Cocke
Western Today staff

[ Editor’s Note: After each Board of Trustees meeting, Western Today provides a recap of decisions and discussion. This is the recap from the board's meetings April 9 and 10. ]

Shortly after he became Western’s president about seven years ago, Bruce Shepard attended a Veterans Day event on campus that drew only a handful of people. There, a Western student said he did not feel comfortable telling people on campus he was a veteran.

Shepard told trustees that anecdote Thursday before a presentation on veterans at Western. Much has changed since that Veterans Day ceremony, Shepard noted, with considerably more support provided to veterans on campus.

A panel of four veterans shared their experiences at Western: Chris Brown, Western graduate, U.S. Marine combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Purple Heart recipient and founder and executive director of Growing Veterans; Jesse Atkins, U.S. Navy veteran, Western graduate and program support supervisor in Western’s disAbility Resources for Students Office; Matthew Swisher, a veteran of the U.S. Marines and Western senior who is the Associated Students Veteran Outreach Center coordinator; and Kari McArdle, a Western junior and U.S. Navy veteran who is attending Western to develop skills necessary to work in therapeutic recreation.

Joined on the panel by Ann Beck, assistant director of Veteran Services at Western, the veterans described their experiences at Western, including some of their successes and challenges.

Beck told the trustees that Western’s 164 veterans “have a continuing desire to serve and to lead” and panelists told of their academic successes, transition to campus life and personal growth at Western. They described how they often acted as mentors to other veterans on campus, as well as to other students. Challenges included being older than most students at Western, moving from the highly structured military life to the much less structured campus life, and dealing with continuing issues related to military service.

Even disclosing to other students and faculty that they are a veteran often is a “weighty” issue. Veterans who disclose their status generally are treated with respect on Western’s campus, but there are still exceptions. One panelist said he was reluctant to reveal to a class that he was a veteran, feeling he would not be fairly treated, after the faculty member provided the class with anti-war and anti-veteran materials.

Overall, however, the veterans said they had good support from Western, with trustees thanking them for their service and encouraging them to look for ways Western can become an even more supportive environment for veterans. One suggestion was a campus task force to examine issues facing veterans at Western.

In other business, the trustees:

  • Recognized the service to Western of Peggy Zoro, who served two terms on the Board of Trustees, for her “incredible grace, kindness, wisdom and compassion and concern for the best interests of all of the Western community…”
  • Unanimously approved rates for Housing and Dining room and board for 2015-2016. Even with the new three-percent rate increase, which addresses modest inflation and capital costs, Western’s room and board rates are still lower than all other four-year public universities in the state. Several trustees said they reluctantly voted for the fee increase but noted that state funds are not used in the self-supporting Housing and Dining System and that the system needed to be adequately funded. There also was discussion of student input on the 2015-2016 rates, which included review and approval by the Residence Hall Association and the Associated Students Board of Directors.
  • Heard a presentation on Fairhaven College by Dean Jack Herring and Fairhaven College student Liliana Morgan, current coordinator of Fairhaven’s innovative five-acre Outback Farm.  Herring described distinctions Fairhaven is known for, including self-designed degrees, seminar-style classroom teaching, interdisciplinary learning and narrative evaluations of student work (in lieu of grades). In its 45th year, Fairhaven College’s “influence on the campus is disproportionate to our raw size,” Herring said, noting that Fairhaven students often are valued additions to other classrooms on campus. Fairhaven graduates have prospered in numerous occupations (from law to corporate leadership), many in areas of social justice, and have been particularly successful in graduate school, he said.
  • Heard a presentation on Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) at Western by Kathleen Kitto, vice provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. During the last academic year, Kitto said that RSP administered approximately 160 different contracts, helped the campus community submit 141 new proposals to 60 different agencies (led by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health), and assisted the campus with 307 different actions with 111 agencies. During the same time, there were 42 new awards made as well as 32 different allocations, resulting in about $9.6 million in available funds for research and sponsored activities at Western.
  • Heard an update on the 2015 legislative session by Becca Kenna-Schenk, director of Government Relations. With release of the state House and Senate operating and capital budgets, there are varying degrees of support for Western and public higher education in each of the budgets. House and Senate conference committees will develop final budgets. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 26, unless a special legislative session is needed.
  • Stephanie Bowers provided an update on WWU’s comprehensive campaign and also said that Western will open a new downtown office on June 19 in Bellingham’s historic Herald Building. The new office is a three-way partnership between the university, the WWU Alumni Association and the WWU Foundation.
  • Heard an update on the draft comprehensive master parking plan by Rich Van Den Hul, vice president for Business and Financial Affairs. Van Den Hul said that the university, for the past two and a half years, has been reviewing its parking system. He described a long-term approach to solving operational and physical issues on campus parking lots, including deteriorating lots and environmental concerns.
  • Heard an update of Integrated Planning and the Budget Process by Provost Brent Carbajal and Rich Van Den Hul.

For more information on the trustees’ meeting, see: Meeting Materials.

The dates for the next regular meeting of the Board of Trustees are June 11 and 12.



Monday, April 13, 2015 - 11:14am
From left, Matthew Swisher, Kari McArdle, Chris Brown and Jesse Atkins discussed with Western's Board of Trustees on Thursday the opportunities and challenges facing veterans at Western. Courtesy photo

From left, Matthew Swisher, Kari McArdle, Chris Brown and Jesse Atkins discussed with Western's Board of Trustees on Thursday the opportunities and challenges facing veterans at Western. Courtesy photo