Tyrone “Ty” Somerville joined the Office of Admissions at Evergreen in November 2013 and was immediately confronted with a difficult yet personal challenge: overcoming the negative impression of the college. Ty is familiar with those misconceptions because he faced them himself when he decided to transfer to Evergreen as a student and 11 year U.S. Army veteran from Green River Community College.
When Ty talks to prospective students at Joint Base Lewis McCord, no one understands the difficult decision to enroll at Evergreen more than he does.
“My recruiting efforts revolve around exposing our service members, their families, and veterans to the great community we have here at Evergreen. It is my duty and privilege to present The Evergreen State College to some of the greatest people who have sacrificed the most in service to this country.”
Evergreen regularly recruits and distributes literature on the military base, but they are faced with competing against schools that offer associates degrees. According to Randy Kelley, Director of the Veterans Resource Center at Evergreen, that’s exactly what service members and veterans are instructed to pursue. The prospect of pursuing a liberal arts education goes against the advice of many career counselors in the military, who see an education at technical colleges as a more direct line to employment. This makes Ty’s job even harder- not only does he have to sell Evergreen, but he has to sell the value of Liberal Arts.
But Ty doesn’t have to do it alone. Daryl Morgan, one of at least seven members of the faculty who are veterans themselves, teaches a specially designed program called “Veterans’ Next Mission: Crossing the Bridge Between Military and Academic Life.” This course specifically helps students transition into Evergreen and understand the value of their transferable skills from military service.
Somerville describes the Veterans Resource Center, under the leadership of Kelly, as “a resource and support hub for those who utilize The Evergreen State College, supporting them in ensuring that achieving their educational goals isn’t an insurmountable task. That support is provided in various ways and the information regarding the proper resources for obtaining the support can come in many different fashions.”
The Veteran’s Resource Center employs student workers, veterans themselves, and guides students from the admissions process through graduation and beyond. The Veteran’s Resource Center works collaboratively with staff across the institution to bring support services under one roof, and works with external organizations like the VA to ensure students have access to all benefits available.
For Somerville, while he knows Evergreen isn’t for everyone, it’s gratifying to connect with non-traditional students and show them the opportunities of getting their four year degree at Evergreen. Somerville himself is on track to graduate in the winter. Like many veterans, he’s a hard worker and is working full time while finishing school. So when he talked with a student with an A.A. earlier this year working at a drive-through, he felt confident as he walked him through the application process for Evergreen Tacoma and showed him a Bachelor’s Degree is possible.
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Read coverage of the Veteran’s Resource Center at northwestmilitary.com
Listen to Randy Kelley, Ty Somerville, and other veteran students in this video produced by Veterans for Peace