UVU Veterans Put Experience, Learning Into Practice

As Veterans Day nears, UVU veterans reflect on their time spent in the military and the experiences they've gained.


The annual Veterans Day celebration is coming soon, and we may expect flags, patriotic music, speakers, and stories of sacrifice for our country.

Often the stories of sacrifice focus on losses of servicemen and women and how they have had to live their lives since their time in the military. The tales are inspirational and we find ourselves giving thanks – silently or otherwise – to all who served.

There is a flip side to the coin, however. Often, the time spent in the military and the experiences gained bring numerous positive effects to the lives of the personnel. Many at Utah Valley University have found that to be the case and those who associate with them have also pointed out those positive effects.

UVU opened a Veteran Success Center in 2015, and it has offered numerous services to student veterans and their families. In addition to the formal help, the student-veterans have a place to study and a place to be around their peers.

Sheldon Holgreen, the center’s director, said there are approximately 800 to 1,200 veterans attending UVU at any time. Adding in the active service members and family members brings that total to around 4,000 whom the center can serve.

“We do not want to be defined by some of the issues we have in the community,” he said. “We are not defined by the struggles we face.”

Some of the positives that he mentioned are perseverance, leadership, communication, drive, work ethic, and acceptance of diverse populations.

“They have the ability to identify a problem, work through the problem, and solve it,” he said. “They have learned to be creative and good team members. They have come back to school to follow their dreams and meet their goals.”

During their duty, they have seen many styles of leadership and had opportunities to develop their own style.

“They have the ability to build a team and provide leadership within a class,” Holgreen said. “They often see themselves as a person apart, because of their experiences. They have a desire to help other students.”

Some things they have learned may need some refinement. Communication is one.

“They have learned to communicate in the military way and that can come off as intense,” Holgreen said. “It can sometimes create confusion, but they seem to figure out how to overcome those hurdles.”

“They also have a very strong drive to complete what they start,” Holgreen said. The center has not completed compiling its members’ grade point averages or rates of obtaining degree, but Holgreen said he expects good results when that is done.

“Those in the military come from all different backgrounds, identities, genders and beliefs,” he said. “We are here to work as a team and grow as a team.” That applies not only to those in the military, but also to those they come in contact with all over the world. “It has to do with relationship building and understanding others.”

“The military focuses on selflessness, honor and integrity,” he said. “Our veterans bring those ideals with them.”

He is not the only one to notice positive traits in the veterans.

“It is a pleasure working with the military veterans I have in the program,” Major Mikel Jackson said. “They all add additional experience, maturity, are easy to work with, and the best team players. It seems as if they have a better understanding of life in general and add so much to the classes I teach. I always love working with veterans and learning from them throughout the school year.”

Christina Fife, an adviser in UVU’s Criminal Justice Department, also praised the student veterans.

“I have had the pleasure of working with several student veterans in this department and they are fantastic,” she said. “Our student veterans bring a mature mind and skill set to the world of criminal justice. I find they are often more motivated to get work done and they know the path they want to pursue. Many of them are a perfect fit for criminal justice as they believe in service to their community.

“Their mind set is different from other students and I believe this in part due to their military training and experience. They also often have a great sense of humor. It is always a delight to work with our student veterans. I consider it an honor to assist them in the pursuit of their degree. Being a member of the extended military family, I am aware of the sacrifices these men and women have given during their military service. I am grateful to rub shoulders with these fine individuals.”

Holgreen, a veteran himself, also expressed gratitude.

“I want to let the public know that I am grateful and proud for the opportunity to be a part of the United States military and to live in a country that has values, ethics, and morals,” he said. “I hope people continue those expectations and vote.”