By Kesha Williams
BOONE—Appalachian State University is ranked seventh among regional universities in the South as a “Best College for Veterans” by U.S. News and World Report. That ranking could be one more reason veterans and active-duty military members select Appalachian.
Eric Gormly, coordinator of Student Veteran Services. Photo by Marie Freeman
Eric Gormly, Appalachian’s new coordinator of Student Veteran Services, knows full well veterans are searching for outstanding universities. In the years he has spent serving with and working with veterans, he has had many conversations about the topic. A goal shared by most veterans, according to Gormly, is to earn degrees that will elevate them on their current career paths or to lead them to new, more desirable careers.
Gormly served in the U.S. Marines for six years, which included two tours of duty in Iraq. He worked previously as a veterans services assistant and a certifying official at Johnson County Community College (Overland Park, Kansas) for five years. There, he assisted with training and managing Veterans Administration work-study student employees, implementing the Military & Veteran Student Resource Center and coordinating “Veterans Week” to raise awareness of student veteran presence on campus. He formerly served as the certifying official and enrollment services coordinator at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
At Appalachian, Gormly serves as the single point-of-contact for student veterans and oversees programs and policies that will meet the unique needs of student veterans. Additionally, he works to foster the growth and success of student veterans by developing activities that facilitate the transition from the military to the campus and Boone community.
Gormly explained that the 276 self-identified veterans and active-duty military members enrolled at Appalachian distinctly differ from the university’s traditional first-year and transfer students. Many veteran students have families who depend upon them for financial support, and arrive with additional needs and responsibilities that impact their class and study schedules.
“A lot of veterans stack courses in the morning or the evening and go to work,” Gormly said. Those who are returning from assignments abroad or military bases located in different states bring vastly different experiences and perspectives to the classroom than their non-military classmates.
“When you live that military life, it’s a different culture. A lot is dependent on your brothers and sisters in arms. College is different and it can be stressful coming in. It’s good to have someone to answer your questions and to understand your past experiences,” Gormly explained. Gormly said he noticed a nationwide push about five years ago to get veterans more involved on college campuses. Appalachian’s Student Veteran Resource Center, which will open in November, will offer ways to get involved, as well as additional resources and support for student veterans and their families. “There is a lot of support and excitement for veterans at Appalachian,” Gormly said.
The new Student Veteran Resource Center will be located on the second floor of the Plemmons Student Union (PSU), and will open with a public ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception in PSU Room 226 (Linville Falls) on Veterans Day: Friday, Nov. 11, at 3 p.m.
Since 2010, Victory Media, the premier media entity for military personnel transitioning into civilian life, has awarded Appalachian the designation of Military Friendly School®. The designation places Appalachian in the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace military students, and to dedicate resources to ensure their success in the classroom and after graduation.
Appalachian maintains a website for veterans and military service members considering enrolling at the university. In addition to its chapter of the Student Veterans Association, the university also has veteran counselors or advisors on staff, a veteran-specific page on the university’s financial aid website, and assists veterans with career placement. The university also offers in-state tuition without residency requirements for military students who are in the N.C. National Guard or on active duty at a military base within North Carolina.
For more information about resources for military students at Appalachian, visit http://militarystudents.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low faculty-to-student ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.