The University of Arizona has been selected by the Pat Tillman Foundation as a Tillman Military Scholar University Partner for the 2010-2011 academic year.
University Partners are chosen to solicit and submit candidates for receipt of the Tillman Military Scholarship through the Pat Tillman Foundation.
The prestigious and selective partnership provides an opportunity for UA student veterans or their family members to apply for the scholarship. A UA team will review the applications and recommend students for selection by the Pat Tillman Foundation.
The Foundation is named after professional football player and military hero Pat Tillman. Tillman played professional football for the Arizona Cardinals from 1998 to 2001 and enlisted in the United States Army in 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
Tillman died in Afghanistan as a result of friendly fire in 2004.
The Pat Tillman Foundation seeks to create a community of scholars dedicated to improving their own lives, the lives of their families and their country by creating a spirit of service.
The Foundation chooses University Partners who are proven military-friendly institutions that offer specific support services for service members and their families and have a significant percentage of military enrollments, in addition to other criteria.
"Because of programs such as the Veterans' Education and Transition Services (VETS) and the Disabled Veterans Reintegration and Education Project, the University of Arizona stood out as a clear leader in veteran's support services," said Hunter I. Riley, Pat Tillman Foundation director of programs, "Like our other Tillman Military Scholar university partners, the University of Arizona's focus on the military community is backed up by strong and diverse services for that community."
This is the second year the Tillman scholarship has been available. During its inaugural year in 2009, the Tillman Military Scholars program awarded a total of $642,000 to 52 students enrolled at 21 universities in 16 states.
The UA is one of four new University Partners for the 2010-2011 academic year and join existing institutions: University of Maryland, University of Arkansas, University of Idaho and Mississippi State University.
These institutions like the UA provide existing military support programs to aid those who serve. Each university partnership is for a period of two academic years and after taking one year off from the program, a University may reapply to regain a partner status.
The UA currently has more than 600 veterans enrolled and has been lauded nationally for its comprehensive approach in providing services to aid veterans in the transition from military life to admission at the University.
UA veteran support programs include:
- A specific contact for veterans at the UA Office of the Registrar that understands and helps veterans access and coordinate GI Bill benefits for use at the University.
- The Veterans Education and Transition Services office, which serves as a resource center and is staffed by student veterans.
- A premier adaptive athletics program.
- A Congressionally-directed grant that uses research and outreach to understand the experiences of disabled veterans as they transition and integrate into higher education.
"This is a competitive scholarship, but it is very significant and comprehensive. The scholarships are a life changing resource and another way for the UA to communicate our commitment to veterans by providing them with another resource," said Terri Riffe, director of the University Teaching Center at the UA.
The scholarship funds can be used in tandem with educational benefits associated with the GI bill.
"The funds are significant for veterans who have exhausted their GI benefits or for the families of veterans. There are several people that come to mind that this scholarship could benefit. It is a new tool in our arsenal to help these veterans out." said Daniel Standage, coordinator for the Veterans Reintegration and Education Project. He graduated in 2009 with a degree in rehabilitation. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from August 1991 to September 2001.
Standage and Riffe will serve on a committee that will promote the Tillman Military Scholarship to veterans enrolled at the UA. Applications will be accepted by the UA committee by the end of February through the end of March 2010.
Standage explained, "The military uses the educational component of the GI bill as a recruitment tool, so it is a real incentive for veterans. It is an occupational option and an educational incentive."
It is an incentive that can provide a transitional haven for veterans unsure of life after discharge.
"The period between being discharged and transitioning to the next step is a really vulnerable period. Leaving something very traumatic and life-changing and moving on is when higher education can step in and make the next steps easier," Riffe said.
"The UA VETS teams really serve as a task force – we are in constant communication with one another – and are only one phone call away," Standage said.