THIBODAUX — For the fourth consecutive year, Nicholls State University has been designated a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs magazine. The honor is given to the nation’s top 15 percent of schools doing the most to embrace active military and veteran students and help them succeed.
The recognition reflects Nicholls’ growing efforts to recruit and retain military students. This fall, the university opened a veterans lounge in Shaver Gym to help build community among student veterans and assist in their transition to college life. Former U.S. Marine and current Army National Guard officer Gilberto Burbante also joined the Nicholls staff in June to create a standardized veterans program. Currently, 195 veterans are enrolled at Nicholls, and Burbante expects that number to increase as more surge troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
“The Military Friendly honor helps us recruit students because they see that Nicholls is actually veteran-friendly,” said Burbante, a three-time Iraq War infantry veteran and 2011 Nicholls graduate. “Once they get on campus, see other veterans hanging out in the lounge and realize how relaxed and open I am, they feel at home. I’m the same as they are. I was a Nicholls student who struggled with the same issues they do, which helps me make a connection.”
U.S. Navy veteran Shane Langnes said his first university experiences have been positive thanks to Burbante and the fellow students he’s met in the new lounge. The mass communication freshman already has a show on the KNSU campus radio station and is seeking out additional ways to get involved.
“This lounge is exactly what I needed,” he said. “It’s more personal than the library and a great place to make new friends. I feel the same camaraderie here as I did back in the military.”
Expanding the specialized services offered to the veteran student population is part of the university’s 2011–16 strategic plan. Nicholls already offers priority service to military members during enrollment. Admission criteria are exempted for veterans who have received an honorable discharge, and they may register before the general student population. Nicholls has also selected a group of individual advisers to serve as veterans’ advocates.
For more information about Nicholls’ services for veterans and active service members, call Burbante at 985-448-4208.