Duke Today: Duke’s Fastest Growing Student Population
*On July 8, 2013, Keith Lawrence published the following story online for Duke Today, under the “Campus” and “Academics” categories. Click here for content related to this story.
After two tours of duty in Iraq, Will Fisher left the Army in 2010 wanting to do something with his life to help his fellow veterans. With financial support from the Veterans Administration, he enrolled in Duke Divinity School, where he is now about to start his second year. Once he graduates, he hopes to work as a chaplain at a VA hospital or a prison.
“There has never been a point in American history where such a small percentage of our citizens have served in the military,” says Fisher, 32. “Professionally and spiritually, I want to serve other combat veterans that civilians may have trouble relating to. The burden of indefinite war is being carried by fewer and fewer of us.”
Larry Moneta, the vice president for student affairs, says Duke has taken several steps to serve its growing number of veterans. His office has created and maintains a website that outlines the various resources now available on campus for veterans.
Moneta says it is unlikely that Duke would build a center for veterans in the near future but is continuing to expand its services in other ways, such as by providing extensive training for all CAPS members on how best to help veterans with mental and emotional issues.
Faculty and staff will have the opportunity to receive training this summer from the VA about resources available for veterans, says associate dean of students Clay Adams. This will be followed by a related open house for the Duke students looking to better understand their benefits.
In addition, Duke will be sending a welcome message this summer to all new student-veterans from Phail Wynn, the university’s vice president of Durham and regional affairs and a Vietnam veteran himself.
Student Affairs is also considering ways to establish informal opportunities for faculty and staff — veterans and non-veterans alike — to mentor student-veterans.
“We have not moved on that yet, but we are looking at ways to be a supportive community,” Adams says.
Jonny Havens, who graduated from Duke Law School in May, says he felt welcomed at Duke. He participated in the law school’s Veterans Disabilities Assistance Project, which helps veterans receive the disability benefits they deserve. He hopes to continue doing pro bono work on behalf of veterans once he starts working at a Houston law firm in September.
“I have zero regrets,” he says of his time at Duke. “It was a pretty cool experience and I got to work with people of many stripes.”