July 8, 2021
Missouri Western State University Center for Military and Veterans Services
DEFINITION: A set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.
There’s an old saying about open doors: “The best secret of success is to always be ready to find and open the door of opportunity.”
This couldn’t be more true for local veterans or active duty military who wish to change careers. In fact, it’s likely to be several doors that open – not just one.
In St. Joseph, many of these open opportunities available to student military personnel and veterans are the work of the Missouri Western State University Center for Military and Veterans Services.
Founded in 2020, the Center provides academic and support services to service members, veterans, and their families. While Missouri Western has always supported the military-connected student community, the Center is a centralized location to serve as a “one stop shop” throughout a student’s journey. Through the Center, military students can connect to one another or apply for a Veterans Affairs (VA) work study program. Dedicated staff are on hand to help navigate the challenges they face. Students can also enjoy some campus comforts, like a lounge and study space.
Center Director Joe Midgley says that students who enter military service and enroll at MWSU are making a decision to invest in themselves; in turn university faculty and staff invest their time and experience into these students.
“We want to build as many partnerships between military students, service members and veterans with community businesses as we can. The university is doing so many good things for the military, and this translates into more people staying within the community. Together, we are educating some of the most focused and disciplined workers available, hirable at all levels from entry to top management,” says Midgley.
Through his role at the Center, Midgley works in partnership with the MWSU Career Center to facilitate community and workforce connections as part of a larger goal to “bring community in to the university, and the university out to the community.”
It’s a philosophy in perfect alignment with the Imagine 2040 St. Joseph strategic plan. As a university town, St. Joseph strives to foster an environment that attracts and retains sought-after talent. Midgley says this concept is becoming more universal across university towns, but St. Joseph is taking solid steps to include more military personnel who are seeking a career shift and veterans into strategic workforce positions.
“Our military students, personnel and veterans have so much to offer – including top training in fields like technology, communications, logistics, management and even specialty areas like medical or diesel mechanics, among many others,” says Midgley. “Thousands of military personnel are sharing these skills across the country and building those partnerships at every hiring level.”
Part of the service Midgley and his team offer helps bridge the gap between military service and employment, including “branding” a student or veteran’s skills into a resume and translating their career successes into the work world. The Center helps military personnel use their education benefits toward new degrees and helps veterans make career changes.
“As they come to us to transition from military, to school, or to the workforce, we enhance and highlight their skills to translate military expertise into the civilian world,” says Midgley. “We want to bring employers in and veterans who are in the workforce to talk with students about how to articulate the tremendous range of skills the military has provided them. We aim to provide one-on-one conversations, along with resume and interview coaching.”
When it comes to understanding military service combined with collegiate support, Midgley certainly knows his stuff. He served in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2007, with deployments to South Korea, Kuwait and Iraq. Previous assignments also include the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, where he earned the Army Recruiting Ring, the second-highest achievement awarded for recruiting excellence. Midgley was part of the VA Workforce Management HR office in Topeka, Kan., and the University of Kansas ROTC program, as well as assistant director of military and veterans’ recruitment at California University of Pennsylvania before joining Missouri Western in March 2020.
He describes his work now as part of a cycle of progress. “As the students accomplish their goals, local employers can be connected to dependable employees who will do their due diligence and have a great university education. We know this develops community, workforce and university connections, and vice versa. It’s a cycle that helps boost our workforce, our progress as a city and our overall forward motion.”
Resources from area National Guard units, as well as nearby Rosecrans in (its in St. Joe, it is the tiny area on the other side of the river that is still MO.) are helping extend the student-military-community connections.
“Together with MWSU, a culture is being created where military, students and veterans can bring a high level of job skills and a unique understanding to St. Joseph area employers. As employers come into this partnership, they can boost the understanding that military personnel are excellent workers and can solve challenges creatively, even during times of deployment,” says Midgley.
As these military/community connections continue to thrive, Midgley is excited about the open doors ahead in St. Joseph. “I want to let students, military personal and veterans know that we are here at the Center for Military and Veterans Services. You can use your benefits here at Missouri Western and we will help you get it all set up. And you can go forward from there in the direction you choose.”
Joe Midgley, Center Director, served in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2007, with deployments to South Korea, Kuwait and Iraq. He has also served in the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and earned the Army Recruiting Ring, the second-highest achievement awarded for recruiting excellence. After his honorable discharge, Midgley enrolled in Kansas State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education in 2012. After graduation, he worked for the VA Workforce Management HR office in Topeka, Kansas and the University of Kansas ROTC program, where he also earned his Master’s degree in business and organizational leadership, then served as assistant director of military and veterans recruitment at California University of Pennsylvania before joining Missouri Western in March 2020.
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