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Veterans Find a Fit at Northwestern

U.S. Military vets transition to the classroom with support from Northwestern

November 10, 2011 | by Erin Spain
Produced by Erin White
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Last Veterans Day Jeff Helfgott, an MBA student at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, arrived in class to find his picture on a projection screen. The snapshot, taken more than five years ago, was during his time as an officer in the U.S. Army, stationed in Iraq.

Kellogg professor Nabil Al-Najjar, who once lived in Baghdad, had requested the five U.S. Military veterans in his class provide a picture in uniform. They had all served in Iraq or Afghanistan, most leading troops under direct enemy fire.

“I was surprised and honored by how much professor Al-Najjar respected what I and the other veterans had done,” Helfgott said. “He showed our pictures in a slideshow and told our classmates about our service. To get that kind of recognition from a world-class faculty member really meant something to me.”

Helfgott is one of 169 Northwestern students using educational benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These students include veterans, active duty personnel and dependents of veterans and active duty personnel. One hundred and thirty-two students are using the Post 9-11 GI Bill.

As more veterans complete their service and return from the war, Northwestern’s veteran population is expected to grow, said Julia Jenkins, senior assistant director of financial aid at Northwestern.

“We make sure these students know how to use their VA benefits and other benefits that are available to them through the University,” Jenkins said. “We do what we can to give back to them for their service.”

Thirty percent of the students using the Post 9-11 GI Bill are eligible for assistance from the Yellow Ribbon program, which is available to those who have served 36 months or more of active duty since September 11, 2011, have separated from active duty service and are using the Post 9-11 GI Bill.

The program allows private universities to give extra funding to veterans whose tuition and fees exceed that of the in-state maximum allowed by the general Post 9-11 GI Bill. Institutions voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon agreement with VA and choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. For example, this academic year Kellogg is offering $15,000 per student, up to 50 students, in Yellow Ribbon funds.

While veterans come to Northwestern to pursue degrees in a number of its colleges, from the School of Continuing Studies to Feinberg School of Medicine, Kellogg has the most veterans enrolled.

“Kellogg has been fantastic in helping us grow the veteran community at Northwestern,” Helfgott said. “We have about 55 student veterans involved in the Kellogg Veterans Association, and we have Top Gun pilots, Special Forces soldiers, submariners – a wide range of military individuals who have the same mentality, focus and goals.”

This Friday will be Helfgott’s last Veterans Day on campus. He graduates from Kellogg at the end of this academic year and already has a job lined up.

“The U.S. Military is known as one of the world’s premier developers of leaders,” Helfgott said. “When you couple that with the pedigree and education from Northwestern, that makes you uniquely positioned to lead.”

More information about VA benefits at Northwestern University

Topics: People, Campus Life