One of the many rewards associated with being dean of the Opus College of Business is the opportunity to meet and interact with our students. Learning of their backgrounds, their motivations and their aspirations serves as a reminder of our mission in what can be, as any dean knows, a job beset with often mundane administrative duties.

Perhaps the most motivating members of our student body are the military veterans who have chosen to earn their degrees after they complete active duty. Whether they choose to begin or continue an undergraduate business degree or pursue an M.B.A. or other graduate business degree, these individuals bring a wealth of experience, deeply held convictions and a great sense of responsibility to their studies. They also bring perspective. Most of the veterans in our programs have seen active duty overseas, have witnessed events that few of us ever will, and that few of us wish to dwell on, frankly. These types of experiences allow veterans to understand that the world of business is just one part of the world and that it should serve a greater good. This understanding is what makes them leaders.

As a Vietnam veteran, I know not only the leadership traits military service can instill in an individual but also the importance of developing those traits into skills that can be put to meaningful work. This is the cornerstone of our efforts to serve U.S. veterans in our business programs.

The University of St. Thomas has been a proud member of the Yellow Ribbon program since its inception following 9/11. This program is part of the GI Bill and allows approved degree-granting institutions and the Veterans Administration to partially or fully fund tuition and fees for post-service veterans. We recognized early on that  those who serve our country have the experience and perspective that business leadership needs. We also recognized that they require more than our commendation; they also require our complete support.

Each of our students, regardless of background, receives personalized attention and service from our recruiting and advising staffs; this is an essential part of the St. Thomas culture. But veterans, our experience has shown, benefit greatly when our recruiting staff go even further in helping them understand how their military service can be translated into success in business. Once enrolled in our programs, veterans often rely on our student advisers to help them balance not only family and class obligations but also ongoing obligations to the reserves. Rather than being seen as an interruption or distraction, we see this continued service as an enhancement to their studies, and yet another element that will contribute to their ability to prioritize, to work collaboratively and to lead effectively.

In all we do, the Opus College of Business is committed to fostering diversity and inclusion among our students, staff, faculty, stakeholders and communities. Our goal is to develop morally responsible leaders who understand the importance of inviting and honoring input from and engagement by all traditions and viewpoints. Ensuring that our veterans are given the opportunity to succeed and, with that success, continue serving our communities is, for me and my colleagues at the university, one tangible means of that commitment.

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