Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora W. Tydings has designated Dr. Robert Denn, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, to serve as Veterans Coordinator for the College System of Tennessee, the state’s 40 community and technical colleges.
Denn assumes the duties of the newly created position in addition to his existing work as associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the system office. Responsibilities for various individual veterans programs are vested with several staff members at the system office and at the colleges, but Tydings said veterans and the programs that serve them are so important that she wanted to designate a single senior staff officer to coordinate and oversee them.
“I can’t think of a better way for our College System to honor our current and future students who are veterans than to designate a highly qualified and respected senior leader on our staff to make sure they are served by our academic, career and support programs as well as they served our nation,” Tydings said. “That work is critical, and as a veteran himself, Dr. Denn has the experience and qualifications to ensure that it is done.
“Every American has the opportunity to attend college, engage in political and academic discourse, and earn a living. On this Veterans Day, I encourage all Tennesseans to remember the freedoms we enjoy because of the men and women who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” the chancellor said.
In his expanded role, Denn’s work will include supporting our campuses and their veterans coordinators in their work for veterans; serving as a source of information for students, families and campuses regarding support for veterans, including benefits, special programs and other services; serving as TBR liaison on veterans affairs with other state and federal agencies, the General Assembly and other Tennessee college and university systems; working with military installations and their public relations and Transition Assistance Program offices, and making recommendations to the vice chancellor for academic affairs and the chancellor on how programs for veterans can be improved.
Denn enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps immediately after high school, at age 17, and served six years as a Weapons Technician.
“My job in the Corps was to ensure that every Marine in our unit was equipped with the serviceable weapons and ammunition needed to accomplish our mission. As the veterans coordinator at the TBR System Office, I will continue that commitment to support our service men and women in their new mission – the pursuit of higher education. Those who have served in the military have a strong sense of duty, and it is our duty at TBR to establish and maintain the necessary support structures as they ‘deploy’ to our institutions,” Denn said.
Eight of the system’s 13 community colleges have been designated by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) as VETS Campuses – public or private nonprofit institutions of higher education that have demonstrated educational support for veterans by meeting stringent requirements established by THEC and the Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act. The VETS Act, approved by the state legislature in 2014, establishes a program of recognition for higher education institutions which allocate resources for veterans’ successful transition from military service to college enrollment. A college or university receiving VETS Campus certification not only priorities outreach to veterans but successfully delivers the services needed to create a supportive environment where student veterans can prosper while pursuing their education.
Denn is already working to explore and expand opportunities for community college students to participate in university ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs, which help prepare them to become officers in the military and other leadership positions. The Board of Regents approved a policy revision earlier this year encouraging the colleges to provide these opportunities by collaborating with universities.
He is also visiting Middle Tennessee State University’s Daniels Center for Veterans and Military Families this week to learn about the work MTSU is doing to serve veterans.
More information for veterans interested in pursuing higher education is available on the THEC website at: https://www.tn.gov/thec/bureaus/academic-affairs-and-student-success/veterans-education.html.
Information on financial assistance for veterans is available on the TBR website at: https://www.tbr.edu/student-success/military-veterans.
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.