In a typical Baylor classroom there might be a freshman who’s left home for the first time and a senior who’s trying to figure out what to do when she graduates. There might also be a former Marine Corps gunnery sergeant who’s nine months pregnant, or a bearded Army retiree.
There are 130 veterans at Baylor, 85 of whom are undergraduates. They are outnumbered by the 18 to 22 year olds who make up almost 95% of Baylor’s undergraduate population. But Baylor is doing its utmost to make them feel welcome here, and to ease their transition into student—and civilian—life.
Programs like the G.I. Bill, which helps fund an education for veterans, enable them to come to Baylor after serving in the military. But funding isn’t all that’s needed for college success. Three years ago, Dr. Janet Bagby, a senior lecturer in the educational psychology department, helped to start Veteran Educational and Transition Services (VETS), which fosters the academic success of student veterans at Baylor.
VETS offers a mentoring program for veteran students, a New Student Experience Course tailored just for them and a Transition Coach dedicated to ensuring their success, among other academic and professional services. Directed by Bagby, VETS is determined to make Baylor a home to veterans.
At a reception held for veterans on Wednesday night, several attendees noted the helpfulness of VETS and the welcoming atmosphere that Baylor has established for veterans.
“We think you have gone above and beyond the call of duty,” said Waco senior Katy Humphrey. “We are adults, and we know what hard work, what dedication is.”
Humphrey, a former gunnery sergeant who had a baby last month, said that she was drawn to Baylor because of the sense of tradition shared by both the university and the military.
In a speech given to the assembled veterans, academic advisers and VETS staff, also highlighted the traditions of Baylor, highlighting certain of them that intertwine with the traditions of the military.
“I know here on our campus one of the things I love looking at…is those beautiful lampposts, those granite lampposts with the names of Baylor veterans,” Starr said.
He went on to describe the military history of Judge Baylor himself, who fought in Canada during The War of 1812. He also discussed the sword that Baylor received from his older brother, a sword that is now a part of the university’s mace.
“I hope you know and you sense the love that Baylor University has for you,” Starr said.
Even though they may not look or act like the typical student at Baylor (Humphrey humorously described several run-ins that she has had with students on their skateboards), the veterans at Wednesday’s reception expressed their appreciation for the home that they’ve found here.
“It’s things like this reception that make us
feel more a part of this university and campus,” said senior Marcus Ci.