In 2014, positioned in front of a desktop computer, Staff Sgt. Seth Duckworth concentrated on his online accounting test. He was about 7,500 miles east of Stillwater, at Fob Forward Operation Base Fenty in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Outside, helicopters and airplanes flew by and soldiers marched to the dining hall. No Oklahoma State University orange in sight, just the camouflaged U.S. Army uniforms and the red, white and blue American flag. He was at war. But By way of online school, he remained connected to his university.
With 10 questions remaining on his exam, darkness immediately filled the room. Duckworth didn’t panic. He’s been through this situation before. Blackouts like this, weren’t unusual, but a grim reminder of the sacrifices in the military.
“If somebody is killed, the base is shut down for a few hours,” Duckworth said. “With the way the world works, there are scenarios where the family member of a solider would learn on social media rather than a formal notification from the Army.”
The test was unfinished because of a 45-minute limit, and after contacting his professor, Duckworth was able to retake.
As an undergraduate student enrolled in the Army Reserves in 2007, Duckworth noticed OSU offered little investment in veteran affairs.
“At the time, OSU really wasn’t involved with veteran affairs,” he said. “I worked directly with the veteran affairs program and it was operated by two older ladies that seemed to be working out of passion.”
Through the years, Duckworth witnessed OSU’s improvements with student veterans and the efforts have been nationally ranked for the sixth straight year. According to the Military Times, OSU was recently listed as a top institution for student veterans. OSU, the top ranked Oklahoma school, appears at No. 92 overall, and No. 76 public school.
“In 2014, I still had some Army benefits and took more classes with OSU,” he said. “Coming back around, I got the vibe that OSU invested more into veteran affairs.”
According to a press release, the Office of Student Veteran Success assists military-affiliated students transition in and out of school through coordination on campus, in the community and state and federal organizations.
“I will say this compliment comes at a time when our university had to change their approach to serving student veterans during a pandemic,” said Vincent Rivera, OSU’s Office of Student Veteran Success coordinator. “To be able to remain a destination for student veterans and their families is an honor.”
Rivera said OSU provides education to 274 student-veterans and 74-active-duty personnel with 177 reservists and National Guard members using educational benefits. Additionally, OSU employs 131 veteran faculty members.
“The needs of students are ever evolving,” Rivera said. “In order to keep up with this evolution, new programs, initiatives and support services are being developed for the Fall 2021 semester and beyond; and the office looks forward to moving up the ranks of the ‘Best Of’ list in the future.”