Serving Those Who Serve Us

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Northwood University ranks in the top 15-percent of colleges, universities, and trade schools doing the most to embrace America’s military service members, veterans, and spouses.

As many members of the United States military can attest, attending school while on active duty is no easy task. Understanding this unique stress by the demands placed on our nation’s service members and their families, Northwood University continues to bridge the gap through educational offerings at its Adult Degree Program campuses on the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan, Naval Air Station Forth Worth in Texas, and Naval Air Station New Orleans in Louisiana.  And, as Northwood’s recent designation from Victory Media as a “Military Friendly School” demonstrates, each of its ADP-military campuses is proving to be a very positive difference maker to men and women serving as members of the U.S. military.

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In the eyes of former Fort Worth Texas Adult Program Center Manager Brian Rolfes, Northwood University provides, “veteran men and women who live and work on base and in the area a quality degree. [The military] trusts that Northwood will provide students with an educational opportunity filled with ethics, values, and outcomes designed to lead to results.”  The honor of being able to train military personnel for a business occupation is not one many universities can boast. Additionally, the partnership with the U.S. military is also valuable to the surrounding communities Northwood serves because it is also accessible to civilians as well.

Northwood University’s work on this front is nothing new. In fact, it’s been a key goal of the University since the early 1970’s. During a time of growth spawned by the futuristic vision of Alden Dow, then President David Fry sparked partnerships with many businesses and industries across the country, including Selfridge Air National Guard, which sparked the University’s strong relationship with the U.S. Military.

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Flexibility is Job One

Currently, Northwood University is offering active-duty and veteran service members of the U.S. Military, both discounted tuition rate and scholarships toward attaining their business degree. Further, Northwood offers a flexible learning model enabling students the opportunity to leave when their unit is called for deployment and pick-up where they left off upon returning.

As Jack Bronka, the Program Center Manager for Northwood’s Selfridge Air National Guard Base center points out, Northwood’s flexible learning model has served a diversity of students over the years including those pursuing bachelor and graduate degrees outside of Northwood. “Because we offer solid curricula, many of our servicemen and women pursuing degrees in engineering or nursing, for example, complete their general courses through Northwood,” stated Bronka. “It’s one more way we can serve those who are serving the rest of us.”

Northwood’s accommodation of the strenuous military lifestyle is one of the many reasons James Leiter chose the school when he was looking for a university. Currently enrolled as a sophomore pursuing a concentration in finance at Northwood University’s Midland, Mich., campus, Leiter is as an active Marine whose student status did not affect his classes or finances because of Northwood’s flexible learning model.

While other options were available, Leiter also chose to stay at Northwood while beginning his military career because the school is “professional, smaller, and the ratio [of professors] to students makes it easy to learn.” He says the hardest part about being both a student and Marine is, “having to balance school and training” often staying up until the early morning to study. Still, he says he would not have it any other way, especially given how understanding and accommodating the University as a whole has been.

“Last year I had to leave and my instructors let me take all my exams early,” Leiter explained. “I was gone for eight months and the school let me keep my scholarships.”

According to Bronka, such flexibility is a norm for enlisted NU students.

“I often give exams before their scheduled time to allow for active duty personnel to deploy without losing their status in the class,” said Bronka.  “And being physically located on base makes it very convenient for them. They can attend class around and after active duty hours.”

With Northwood University offering unparalleled opportunities to both active-duty and military veterans the value of a Northwood degree continues to grow. In the same way that Northwood’s standing in the automotive and fashion marketing sectors continues to grow, for example, its reputation in the military realm continues to blossom as well. As Diana Garcia, Assistant Program Center Manager in Fort Worth, Tex., shares, the value of a Northwood on military bases, “provides an opportunity for military service men and women to advance their military career and move up the ranks.”

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A Veteran Excels 

In addition to the 350-plus service men and women studying at Northwood University system wide, a number of veterans are also utilizing their V.A. benefits to complete their degree. One such individual is Derek Parker.  Following a number of challenges and an honorable medical military discharge, Parker decided to pursue a college education once again. Once he was re-acclimated with the world of higher education he found himself well on his way to a new and promising future.

“When you’re ready to re-enter society and the work force Northwood will open you to a new world filled with opportunities.”

According to Parker, Northwood is not only helping him achieve his educational goals, it is also positioning him to succeed in a music recording business he operated before studying at Northwood.

“I realized that owning my own music business was great but that I could also benefit by equipping myself with solid business knowledge. Northwood has been a great choice for me. It’s accommodating to my personal career and it’s helping me grow as a person.”

Honoring His Fellow Servicemen and Women

As an adjunct faculty member at Northwood University, Professor Kenneth Gembel makes a special point to honor military veterans in his classroom.

“I am a veteran myself ’66 to ‘68. My father was a veteran, and I know the respect they deserve,” said Gembel. “Any opportunity I can, I honor the hardships, dedication, and challenges they face in the world.”

Two particular students recognized in this way were Daryl Bushong and Joseph Jackson.  Each were presented with ‘State of Michigan Tributes’ by Michigan House Majority Leader Jim Stamos on behalf of Governor Snyder. Gembel selected Stamos to present the awards given his status as a Northwood University alumnus and a veteran of the U.S. Army.  In turn, in gratitude for his military service and striving to live out The Northwood Idea, Mr. Stamos was given a tribute on behalf of Northwood University, signed by University President & CEO, Keith Pretty.

Recognition like this makes sense in Gembel’s view. The magnitude of their sacrifices and character is something one sees not only on the battlefield but also in the classroom. One example Gembel cited is NU student Calvin Johnson, an injured war veteran who is the only survivor of a Humvee accident.

“Mr. Johnson participated in class with unmatched perseverance and dedication, always arriving early, striving for the best in his class, and leaving a lasting impact,” Gembel recalled.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

A proud graduate of the Northwood University campus on Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Senior Master Sergeant Russ Childs is using his degree to share knowledge with other airmen continuing education. In an article released in the base’s newsletter Childs, the financial management superintendent of the 127th comptroller flight at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, said his Northwood degree “made me think bigger… It helped me to get past just ‘what do I see today,’ [and] to gain input from other sources and see the bigger picture.”

Childs is one of many citizen-airmen who take advantage of military tuition assistance programs to pursue their higher education. 

“Initially, I wanted to get the degree because no one in my family had one. As I got going, I realized it was helping me to become a better leader,” he explained.

Achieving Military Friendly Status

This past fall, Northwood University was recognized by Victory Media as a Military Friendly School for the third consecutive year. As Rhonda Anderson, associate dean of the Adult Degree Program described it, the criteria behind Victory Media’s presentation of the award points to the breadth and depth of Northwood’s military commitment.

“From campuses on military bases, to acknowledging and offering VA benefits, being a military student at Northwood makes sense,” said Anderson.

“Northwood honors Servicemember Opportunity College credits and ACE recommended credits from the Joint Services Transcript and is teamed with military expert advisors to build programs especially for service members. If anyone happens to be called for duty, Northwood will withdraw the student from their classes, refund the classes not yet participated in, and keep their status during deployment,” she continued.

When asked about the recent Military Friendly designation Professor Gembel remarked, “I think it is awesome! People forget the battles that those in service encounter within their own mind, and I want people to realize the benefit you can leave on a vet. This award shows how we at Northwood are striving to do just that.”

Like Gembel, Derek Parker suggested that military servicemen and women strongly consider Northwood University, “Anyone who doesn’t want to settle for just an education, but wants something more should attend Northwood University—especially for those who are self-motivated,” stated Parker. “The school’s mission statement speaks for itself.” 

Increasing Degree Equity

As these and similar developments attest, NU alumni can be proud of the ongoing efforts Northwood University is taking to welcome and educate the brave and dedicated servicemen and women of America. In addition to the primary benefit of accommodating the unique and demanding schedules of those in our military, efforts like this are just one of the ways which Northwood University is endeavoring to increase the value of its degree worldwide.

Leadership Legacy Scholarship

Recipients of this scholarship attend the Fort Worth Program Center and are selected each year since it was first established in 2009. Funds are contributed from the local real estate construction industries specifically to honor the men and women who have, who are, and who will serve in the Armed Forces of the United States of America; and to recognize the dedication of American Educators and their support staff. Ms. Barbara Fife represents the Fort Worth-Dallas real estate and business contributors in annual contributions for continual support of this scholarship program.

- Northwood junior, Nicholas Langlois