HSC designated a military-friendly institution

Edgar Franco and Linda WolffLinda Wolff said she’s always needed a sense of purpose. After attending junior college for a time, she entered the U.S. Air Force and served for six years on active duty and two years in the reserves. A few months from now, she will graduate with her Master of Public Health degree from The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s School of Public Health — an accomplishment she said wouldn’t have been possible without lessons she learned serving in the military.

“It really was the perfect option for me,” she said of the Air Force. “It gave me a really great place to grow. It gave me a sense of purpose. I’ve always loved serving and I was able to do that on a massive scale.”

Wolff is one of 99 students at HSC with military affiliation status, including 20 active/commissioned and 33 veteran students. On campus, there are multiple veterans’ organizations and other veteran-specific amenities.

Building on the university’s support for America’s veterans, HSC has been designated a military-friendly institution for the 13th year in a row.

Each year, the school certifying official from the Registrar and Student Records Office collaborates with numerous campus partners — Career Readiness, Student Finance, Financial Aid, Office of Admissions and Recruitment and more — to complete and submit a survey that determines the campus’s status. In the 2023-2024 survey, HSC increased its military-friendly ranking from bronze to silver status.

“The military-friendly designation demonstrates our desire to build a diverse and inclusive student population at HSC,” said Dr. Nicki McGee, assistant vice provost, of enrollment management. “We are honored to serve those who have served and will serve our country.

“Our military students come to HSC understanding sacrifice and service. As practitioners, we know that they will serve their communities with the same selfless dedication.”

HSC is also recognized as a Purple Heart University by the Military Order of the Purple Heart DFW Mid Cities Chapter #1513. The official designation took place on November 10, 2017, to remember and recognize veterans who are recipients of the Purple Heart Medal.

HSC veterans are not just a number

Edgar Franco Air ForceEdgar Franco said when he was applying to graduate schools, HSC was his No. 1 choice because its values aligned with his own. The second-year doctorate of physical therapy student served in the U.S. Air Force for seven years, including a stint in Iraq.

“I started reading about HSC’s values, and I was like, ‘Man, this kind of goes hand in hand with what the Air Force taught me,’” he said. “Reading all that stuff reminded me of the values the Air Force embedded in me: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. That resonated with me.

“With the PT department and everybody else, I felt like I was heard. I wasn’t just a number.”

Wolff said it was a Veterans Day event during her second semester that helped her transition into civilian life at HSC.

“I think veterans can sometimes feel like you have to assimilate — like you need to stop using military lingo and blend into civilian culture,” she said.

After being encouraged by a staff member to attend the event, Wolff said she felt like she truly belonged on campus.

“There were a lot of students and faculty there who were veterans,” she said. “That moment really changed me. There are a ton of faculty on campus that are veterans, and I had no idea. And so seeing all these people and realizing that I was surrounded by people who had similar experiences, it felt like I knew more people on campus just because I knew more people who had a similar experience.”

Linda Wolf Air ForceExtending a hand to HSC veterans

Wolff wanted other veterans to feel just as welcome as she felt. To help them identify each other on campus, she worked with staff to create the Badge Buddy, a badge that hangs behind and lower than the standard-issue HSC ID badge. Each branch of the military has its own unique color and design. The HSC Badge Buddies debuted last semester.

At this year’s Veterans Day event, Wolff said, veterans welcomed the new identifying badge enthusiastically.

“Now, when you walk around campus, you can see all these people with their veteran badges,” she said. “I think this is really cool.”

Badge BuddyFranco now serves as the Physical Therapy Student Association president. He wants other veterans to know that HSC is a nurturing landing spot for people who live to serve.

“As veterans, we feel seen; we feel included in this university,” he said. “That means the world to us because a lot of the time getting out of the military can be very daunting. Here, we feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves again.

“I hope more veterans consider HSC when it comes to picking a school because I really feel represented at HSC as a veteran.”

Franco and Wolff are collaborating to start a campus chapter of SALUTE, the national honor society for veterans. Wolff said she is reaching out to veterans on campus now to gauge their interest. For veterans interested in learning more about HSC’s SALUTE chapter, contact EdgarFranco@my.unthsc.edu or lindawolff@my.unthsc.edu.

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