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Viterbo University launches new veterans assistance initiative

Viterbo University launched a military aligned student programming initiative that included the appointment of a full-time director to help military veterans and their family members make a successful transition to college and civilian life.

Keith Purnell, who served for 22 years in the U.S. Army before retiring with the rank of Sergeant First Class, is Viterbo’s director of military aligned student support and recruitment. His duties include assisting veterans and their family members throughout their college careers—from the application process and accessing their military education benefits, to working with faculty and academic support services to ensure academic success and retention, to career advising and graduation.

“Viterbo University is committed to providing exceptional service to our military veterans and family members who have selflessly given of themselves for the benefit of our nation,” Sgt. Purnell said.

Viterbo administrators have the goal of increasing the number of military aligned students at the university by 300 percent over the next five years. Military aligned students are considered anyone who is currently serving or has previously served on active duty, as a member of the reserves or National Guard, and military spouses or dependents.

Sgt. Purnell understands exactly the issues today’s veteran students and their families face because of his own experience earning a college degree.

This position at Viterbo is one of many ongoing veteran support programs at the university, which is designated a Military Friendly School and a Yellow Ribbon School. Examples include partnerships with local veterans’ organizations, the opportunity for students to participate in the ROTC program, and a dedicated space on campus for veterans. Viterbo chaplain Fr. Conrad Targonski, OFM, served 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and Rick Trietley, Viterbo vice president for student affairs, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.