By Jeff Willadsen, Global Campus Senior Writer
According to WSU statistics from fall 2019, Global Campus has an exceptionally large population of service members, veterans, and military family members, with more than 9% of enrolled Global Campus students being military affiliated. That’s compared to about 1% of the student population on the Pullman Campus.
One primary way that WSU supports this large military-affiliated population is through a dedicated Veterans Affairs Coordinator. Penny Martinez, who was recently hired to this position in August 2019, works to assist WSU students in applying for veterans’ benefits and ensure they get the services and support they need to succeed.
Originally from Garfield, Wash., Martinez is a US Army veteran, having served as a supply specialist, administrative support professional, and paralegal. Over her 24-year career, she was stationed across the US and the world, including Germany and Iraq. She retired from the Army in 2010 at the rank of staff sergeant.
“Based on my experiences as a soldier and also as a military child, it’s easy for me to sympathize with the unique challenges of military-affiliated students,” she said. “I want them to know that I’ve been there too, and I know where a lot of them are coming from.”
In addition to a large military-affiliated population, the Global Campus community is also unique in that the flexible online format allows for service members to pursue their degree while still on active duty and stationed across the globe. Many veterans, reservists, and family members also hold full time jobs while pursuing their degree online.
Martinez says that she is very familiar with the busy lifestyle of many Global Campus students, as she is currently earning her degree online while working as WSU’s VA coordinator.
“I know from personal experience just how challenging it can be to be to juggle work, life, and school,” she said. “If you’re feeling these challenges in your life, reach out to me. I’m here for you.”
In addition to Global Campus, Martinez also provides veteran’s benefit assistance to students from WSU’s Pullman, Everett, and Spokane campuses. In total, she supports more than 800 military-affiliated students.
“Even though I’m responsible for supporting so many students, each and every one is very important to me,” she said. “If you ever have trouble getting ahold of me, I appreciate your patience and persistence. I promise that I’ll help you out as soon as I possibly can.”
According to Martinez, one useful tip for getting prompt assistance is to inquire through the Veterans Affairs Office email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Though she also available by phone, it often takes longer for her to respond to phone messages than to emails, she said.
“I’ll make sure you get the help you need,” she said. “It’s my job to serve those who have served, and I take it very seriously.”
Additionally, Martinez highly recommends that military-affiliated students get involved with the veteran community groups and services as much as possible.
At WSU, this includes WSU Student Veterans Committee and WSU’s Vet Corps Navigator. Martinez also encourages students to join local branches of veterans’ groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
“I think it’s very important for military-affiliated students to connect with the greater veterans’ communities here at WSU and across the nation,” she said. “If you do, I think you’ll find brothers and sisters just like you who will welcome and support you. Just know that you are not alone.”
For more information on benefits and support for military-affiliated Global Campus students, visit the Global Campuses Military and Veterans web page.