By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–IU Southeast welcomed some 30 Tillman Scholars to campus for the Pat Tillman Foundation’s first-ever Scholars Wellness Retreat.
The participants, from as far away as Seattle and Boston, and as nearby as Fort Knox, enjoyed workshops on topics such as creative writing, human-centered design, practical behavioral science for self-care, and tools for anxiety and self-compassion.
A highlight was an art therapy session led by the group, Creative Arts for Veterans/Indy Creative Art Therapists and facilitated by Todd Burkhardt, director of campus partnerships for the IU Center for Rural Engagement.
Besides awarding scholarships to veterans, active duty personnel and military spouses, the Foundation organizes a wide range of events for professional development and leadership, according to Tabatha Renz, associate director of programs at the Pat Tillman Foundation. But this is the first devoted to wellness, which is important for the scholars, who are selected on the basis of their dedication to service and potential for impact.
“These are busy people, making things happen out in the world, and rarely taking time for themselves,” Renz said. “This retreat offers the scholars a chance to see different ways they can be well for themselves and strive for wellness, which they can then apply in their other work.”
Tillman Scholars are military service members, veterans and spouses with a high potential for impact as demonstrated through a proven track record of leadership, the continued pursuit of education and the commitment of their resources to service beyond self, according to the Foundation website.
Events, conferences, training, mini-grants are just some of the ways that the Foundation develops the scholars as leaders and offers guidance and resources to expand their knowledge, skills and experience, leading to greater impact in their communities and the world.
Since the program began in 2004, 754 applicants have earned scholarships and the right to be named Tillman Scholars, with 60 added each year. They have come from 166 different universities. There are 17 university partners, including Indiana University.
The support provided by the Pat Tillman Foundation and other organizations is crucial to the success of veterans in college and in life.
Veterans attending college face unique challenges, according to John Summerlot, IU’s university coordinator for the veteran and military services.,
“In addition to being older, they may have family commitments including children,” Summerlot said. “Many also feel pressure to ‘hurry up’ and get through school as if they are behind on their career, and a number of them come to the classroom with unique life experiences that may help or hinder their experience.”
Summerlot helped to bring the retreat to IU Southeast by drawing on IU’s strong ties to the veteran community.
“Through IU’s University Partnership with the Pat Tillman Foundation, IU Southeast is connected to the most prestigious veterans scholarship program in the country,” Summerlot said. “They chose IU Southeast for this retreat, and we rolled out the welcome mat.”
That welcome mat included space, logistical support and presenters, much of which was arranged by Amanda Stonecipher, vice chancellor for enrollment management and student affairs, in consultation with Renz.
For Summerlot, the event was another demonstration of IU Southeast’s commitment to the success of veteran and military-connected students, a commitment that is seen in the creation of the Adult and Military-Conected Student Center and support for IU’s first National Veterans Leadership Foundation Fellow, Jose Aponte.
“It showed the campus, the community, and the scholars that the doors of IU Southeast are open to veterans, spouses and those committed to serving their communities both in uniform and out of it,” Summerlot said.