November 08, 2013

SIU goes ‘Above and Beyond’ for military personnel

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale will receive a new honor on Saturday, Nov. 9, for its continuing support of active-duty military personnel.

The university will receive the prestigious “Above and Beyond Award” from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. The award will be presented during Military Appreciation Day at the football game between the Salukis and Missouri State University.

All veterans and active-duty military personnel receive free admission to the football game, which begins at 2 p.m. at Saluki Stadium.

“SIU is proud of our long and continuing tradition supporting active and former military personnel who have served our country at home and abroad,” said Chancellor Rita Cheng. “We are honored to receive this award and especially pleased that it will be presented on Military Appreciation Day before our many friends and fans.”

The “Above and Beyond Award” recognizes that SIU faculty, staff and administrators “have gone above and beyond what is required by law to assure that Guard and Reserve service members who are students as well as employees are valued by their fellow employees and the university for the service they render to the security of the nation,” said James A. Osberg, the employer outreach representative for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

The university has received numerous awards from the Department of Defense to “develop and promote a culture which supports and values the military service of its employees,” said Osberg, who worked at SIU in a variety of positions for a total of 34 years before retiring in 2003.

“SIU has really done some wonderful things to accommodate the special circumstances that result from activation and training for their employees and students,” he said.

The university has a long-standing commitment to active military personnel, reservists and student veterans. The university in 2010 received the Seven Seals Award, and university employees have also received Patriotic Employer Awards for their efforts.

Last month, the university announced its partnership with “Hope For The Warriors,” a national non-profit organization, to enhance educational support services for post-9/11 student veterans. SIU is providing office space, marking the first time “Hope For The Warriors” will have a presence on a university campus to assist those veterans and their families.

The university has a Veterans Services office that offers assistance to all student veterans, and SIU also recently expanded services with the addition of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) program staff and GI Bill enrollment certification. SIU is one of more than 250 universities and colleges across the United States implementing a national eight-step program introduced recently by the Obama administration designed to help veterans achieve their education and employment goals.

The university recently earned recognition as a “Military Friendly School” for 2014 from Victory Media for a fifth consecutive year as one of the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the United States for providing educational opportunities to student military veterans and active duty personnel.

Osberg also said the annual “Military Appreciation Day” is “yet one more way that SIU promotes the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve’s principle mission.”

In 2010, the university also earned the inaugural Governor’s Award for Excellence in Veterans Education, recognizing SIU Carbondale’s efforts to enhance the educational experiences of student military veterans.