LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 11, 2023) — The University of Kentucky, for the second consecutive year, has been saluted as a Military Friendly School — this year moving up in ranking to silver status — and Military Spouse Friendly School.
The designations come from Military Friendly, an organization that measures a school or company’s commitment, effort and success in creating sustainable and meaningful opportunities for the military community. The distinction is a direct result of the efforts put forth by the UK Veterans Resource Center (VRC), which serves as the leading campus advocate for military, dependents and veteran students.
“The military-friendly school designation holds immense significance for the UK Veterans Resource Center,” VRC staff members Hannah Simms, Amy Southwood and Kimberly Carney said in a joint statement. “This recognition underscores our commitment to providing exceptional support and resources to our veterans, military-connected students, active-duty service members and their families. It acknowledges the tireless efforts of our staff, faculty and the entire university community in creating an environment that fosters success for those who have served our country or are connected to someone who serves our country. This designation is a testament to our dedication to helping military-affiliated students transition seamlessly into academic life and achieve their educational and personal goals.”
Housed in the Office for Student Success, the VRC — located in the Republic Bank VRC facility — offers holistic and individualized support to all military-connected students, working consistently with military organizations and networks and local businesses to ensure students have access to valuable opportunities on and off campus.
“We understand that a successful university experience is one that requires a comprehensive network of support,” VRC staff said. “We take the time to understand each student's specific needs and challenges, enabling us to provide personalized referrals to a wide range of campus resources, such as academic advising, counseling services, disability accommodations and tutoring. By connecting students with the right resources, we ensure they receive the support necessary to live lives of meaning and purpose.”
For someone like Olivia Van De Brake, a UK senior studying special education in the College of Education, that support came in the form of a job.
"I got an email one day saying that the VRC was hiring and that I was eligible to apply for the position," Van De Brake said. "I started working two years ago and since then it has given me a lot of really amazing opportunities."
Through those opportunities, Van De Brake has formed a community that feels like family, one she believes would not have happened otherwise. She has been recognized during a UK football game and has even started her own club on campus called the Military Appreciation Club (MAC).
"Working for the VRC has made my experience here at UK 1000 times better," Van De Brake said.
For more than 20 years, the Military Friendly Schools list has set the standard for higher education institutions to provide the best educational opportunities for veterans, their spouses and the military community.
Military Friendly scored more than 1,800 schools that completed its survey by using an outside advisory council that provides perspective on criteria, methodology and weighting. A third-party auditor then verified the results.
Founded in 2003, the Military Friendly program creates civilian opportunities for veterans. By setting a standard, promoting it and raising the bar over time, it provides long-term, positive reinforcement for organizations across the country to invest in programs that improve the lives of military families.
This ranking is another in a long list of accolades that distinguishes UK as an institution committed to sustained success for its students. However, for the VRC, it is more than recognition that propels its mission forward.
“Beyond the accolades, what truly drives us is the unwavering commitment to the success of our veteran and military-connected students,” VRC staff said. “Witnessing the positive impact our support has on their lives is incredibly motivating. We are committed to continuously enhancing our programs and services by staying attuned to the evolving needs of our students. Our goal is not only to maintain our high standards but to constantly innovate and improve, ensuring that the UK VRC remains a beacon of support for veterans, military-connected students, active-duty service members, and their families as they embark on their academic journeys and transition to meaningful careers.”
The Republic Bank VRC is located on the ground floor of Erickson Hall on UK's campus. Thanks to the Republic Bank Foundation, the VRC has recently undergone a renovation and expansion, allowing for improved support for UK's military and veteran populations.
To learn more about the VRC at UK, visit its website here.
As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.
In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.