Skip to main content

UW-Stevens Point support leads to Military Friendly designation

April 25, 2024
Kayla Zimmerman
Kayla Zimmerman serves as president of the Veterans Club at UWSP, designated as a Military Friendly School.

It was during the first weeks of classes at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point that first-year student Kayla Zimmerman came across an information table for the university’s Veterans Club.

A member of the U.S. Army National Guard, Zimmerman was hoping to find the same bonding experiences she had in the military while attending UW-Stevens Point to study paper science and chemical engineering. After speaking with members, she was invited to the club’s office to meet others. She was quickly accepted into their ranks and found the guidance and help she needed for her first year with others who had a similar background and experiences.

“I don’t know how well I would have done that first semester without the Veteran’s Club,” said the Rosendale, Wis., native, now the president of the organization as she nears her May graduation from UW-Stevens Point. “Having the members to reach out to, especially during COVID, made college significantly easier.”

Support from fellow members and from Christopher Smith, UW-Stevens Point’s Veteran Services Coordinator, is not only helping military veterans and ROTC students on campus, it is among the reasons UW-Stevens Point was named a silver 2024-25 Military Friendly School.

The Military Friendly designation is determined through a survey at the institution as well as an assessment of the school’s ability to meet the thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence to degree and loan default rates for all students and specifically for student veterans. The designation is determined through VIQTORY, a service-disabled, veteran-owned business that connects the military community to civilian employment. UWSP has a long history of earning the honor.

“Earning this distinction is really a credit to the effort and outcomes of students, both veteran and military affiliated, and the tremendous support of the university’s staff,” Smith said. “Since the first day I started this position, I’ve had organizations within the university reaching out for ideas on how to best support veteran and military affiliated students.”

This support ranges from assisting students in their transition from the military to college, understanding the benefits they are entitled to and have available, offering academic and career advising and providing meaningful academic opportunities, Smith said.

“We are extremely fortunate to have a culture that supports the student’s comprehensive well-being and success here at Point,” he said.

“Chris does a lot of work to remind you and help you with the paperwork involved in attending school as a veteran,” said Zimmerman. “If you need a tutor or help with a field experience or study abroad trip, he helps you find ways to manage it.”

Smith also helps with career services and making connections in Portage County for veteran students. “He makes sure we have what we need to keep going, and he does it happily. Plus, he is just great to be around.”

Zimmerman joined the National Guard while she was in high school and went to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri after her graduation. She served her advanced individual training at Fort Huachuca in Arizona for nine months and served as an intelligence analyst in the Madison reserve unit of the guard until July of last year.

“I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be before heading to college,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to be more organized, how to face challenges and succeed. I also wanted to be a part of keeping my country safe.

“As part of the guard, I enjoyed the bonds I formed with new people and having life experiences and challenges I never would have in my day-to-day life. It is easier to work through things when you have been through something challenging and yet you made it through it.”

After graduation, Zimmerman will be a process engineer with BiOrigin Specialty Products, a paper manufacturer in Menominee, Mich. Having the support of the paper science and chemical engineering faculty and staff and all of the veteran services helped her find employment and success, she said.

Zimmerman suggests that any UW-Stevens Point veteran student take advantage of the offerings available through Veterans Services and the Veterans Club.

“If you need help with anything – math homework, a project or U.S. Veteran Affairs, there is someone there who has been there, done that,” she said. “We all do our best to get you the services and connections you need.”