University News

UW-Whitewater earns national distinction for its support of military and veteran students

June 17, 2024

Written by Kristine Zaballos | Photos by Craig Schreiner

For the eighth consecutive year, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has been named among the Colleges of Distinction, a national honor that recognizes campuses for exceptional teaching and dedication to student success. UW-Whitewater is one of just four public universities in the state to receive this distinction.

This year, the university is one of only three colleges in Wisconsin — and the only public university in the state — to be awarded a badge in military support, recognizing an institution’s efforts to support and cultivate the skills that military students bring to the classroom, all while helping them achieve their personal and professional goals.

“Military students and veterans bring a wealth of strengths and experiences to our Whitewater and Rock County campuses, and we work hard to meet their unique needs and challenges,” said UW-Whitewater Chancellor Corey A. King.

“It is a university-wide effort to provide the support these students deserve — starting with the admissions colleagues who ensure as many hard-earned credits as possible transfer to our campus, and continuing with the education services staff who offer a seamless experience for students on deployment.”

Among the resources and support services recognized by the badge are the university’s Veterans, Military Service and Family Members Lounge, two full-time veterans support staff members, an active Chancellor’s Committee on Veterans and Military Student Success, whose charter is to “support broader efforts to improve the university culture of inclusion, increase retention and graduation rates, and celebrate the successes and contributions of our military-affiliated students, faculty, and staff,” and a dedicated website of resources for students.

Kris McMenamin has served as a full-time veterans services coordinator on campus since 2021.


Kris McMenamin stands at a podium with flags hanging in the background.

Kris McMenamin, Marine Corps veteran and campus veterans services coordinator, speaks at the university’s annual Veterans Day ceremony.


“The Veterans Services office helps make the transition from military culture to academic excellence smooth and the college experience as rewarding and meaningful as possible for our military students,” said McMenamin. “Our dedicated lounge, media room and computer lab are places where students can do some focused work, kick back and relax, or talk to an understanding staff member.”

The new military support badge rounds out existing badges that highlight UW-Whitewater’s excellence in business, education, equity and inclusion and as a public institution in Wisconsin. And it continues to be the only college in the Universities of Wisconsin to earn the career development badge and one of just two universities in the state to be awarded the affordability badge.

To be named a College of Distinction, UW-Whitewater demonstrates continued excellence in undergraduate education in such factors as student engagement, teaching excellence, outcomes-based learning, and community involvement. This evaluation process differs from those of popular college rankings publications, whose formulas grade institutions based on factors like faculty salaries, endowment size, and peer opinion.

The Colleges of Distinction selection process consists of a review of each institution’s freshman experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, alumni success, strategic plan, student satisfaction, and other criteria. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to the four distinctions: engaged students, great teaching, successful outcomes and vibrant community.


Distinction 1: Engaged students

A person holds up a drone in the GIS lab.

Thor Manson, an Army veteran who enrolled at UW-Whitewater as a geography student after serving in Iraq, is the first Warhawk to be named a Harry S. Truman Scholar. The $30,000 scholarship secured his dream of graduate studies in international development at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Read more about Thor


Distinction 2: Great teaching

People stand in the rotunda of the Capital building and look up at the dome ceiling.

Steven Girard, an associate professor of chemistry at UW-Whitewater, serves as faculty advisor to Nick Barmore, who earned a $4,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium.

Read more about Nick's NASA grant


Distinction 3: Vibrant communities

Kolden Severson stands with children in a classroom.

Janesville native Kolden Severson attended UW-Whitewater to become a teacher. Through the university’s Community Based Learning (CBL) program, he found a way to bring his passion for teaching — and his ability to speak Spanish — to enrich a local school, Washington Elementary, where he returned as a teacher after graduating.

Read more about Kolden


Distinction 4: Successful outcomes

Maria Pacheco sits at a table with a smile on her face.

Maria Pacheco received her associate degree in May 2024 at Rock County’s commencement ceremony. A first-generation college student, Pacheco evolved into a campus leader during her two years on campus, and will begin classes on the Whitewater campus this fall.

Read more about Maria

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