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Flexibility, support attract active duty military members, veterans to ASU health programs

ASU students Courtney Lefko, left, and Heather Greene, right, pose in their military uniforms.

Courtney Lefko (left) and Heather Greene say they've received a lot of support as they navigate their schooling and military service.

November 03, 2021

Courtney Lefko has always wanted to serve her country and she’s also always wanted to earn a degree. Becoming a member of the Army National Guard has afforded her the opportunity to do both.

“The National Guard makes it possible for you to serve and go to college at the same time, and I really like that aspect because getting my degree was really important to me,” Lefko said.

Heather Greene moved to Arizona more than a decade ago to attend college but wasn’t able to afford it, so she enlisted in the Air Force knowing that one way or another she’d be able to get financial help in pursuing an education.

“The Air Force has a scholarship called the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program, or NECP for short, and I decided I’m going to pursue this and if I don’t get selected, worst case, I’ll just separate and use my GI Bill. I didn’t want to but I was like, if I have to I will,” Greene said.   

Their military service is not the only thing they have in common. Both Lefko and Greene are nursing students at Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. 

Lefko is in the concurrent enrollment program while Greene is enrolled in the accelerated program. Upon graduation, they will both earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing.

And while their paths to ASU were different, the flexibility and support they received from Edson College before even enrolling in a program were the same.

“I started the program and then was sent on deployment overseas, and the entire time, the ASU program was very supportive of me, helping me stay on track and communicating with me so I could get right back into classes when I came back,” Lefko said.

For Greene, the college went a step further, working with her to accommodate the requirements of the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program scholarship, which she learned she’d received while on deployment in Honduras last year.

“I am so blessed to even be here and have this opportunity because it’s just so competitive on both ends of the stick, getting into nursing school and getting selected for this scholarship,” Greene said.

Both students say their professors and advisers have played big roles in helping them to not only get where they are but in helping them stay on track and engaged when duty calls.

Working with military, reserve and veteran students to ensure they can navigate their service and schooling is nothing new for the college.

Katherine Kenny, associate dean of academic affairs for Edson College, says there are students enrolled in every undergraduate program who are either actively serving or have served. In total there are 284 military-affiliated students across all programs.

“Our military and veteran students have already done so much for this country. It’s really an honor for us to be able to provide excellent service to ensure they can achieve their academic dreams. We want to see all of our students do well, and we are dedicated to providing resources and time to support their success,” Kenny said.

It’s not just individual college support either. Lefko points to the military and veteran services offered universitywide that make ASU a great choice for enlisted, reservist or veteran students and their families.

“ASU has been really helpful in connecting me with resources to help get my tuition covered. The Army pays for the majority of my tuition but whatever is leftover is covered by ASU’s Military Active Duty and Reservist Commitment Scholarship,” Lefko said.

In addition to the day-to-day services, there are also year-round opportunities for engagement and connection. Right now, the university is in the midst of recognizing and celebrating all who have served through the annual Salute to Service campaign. It’s an opportunity for the university to show support to our military community and their families. 

“I think it’s so inspiring to see people who are serving their country and then taking their free time because they don’t get any time to do classes and bettering themselves,” Lefko said.             

Both students are on track to graduate in 2022 and plan to use their degrees to continue serving in their respective branches as registered nurses. As they continue working toward that goal, they shared some advice for fellow military members and veterans considering attending ASU.

“My best advice would be, don’t be afraid to reach out. Just because you don’t feel like you are a perfect fit or you have some sort of restrictions or restraints or something that would hold you back, don’t be afraid to ask the question and reach out to the college, because everyone I’ve met has been extremely helpful and kind, and I feel like they want every student to succeed,” Greene said.

“I think people see the university as this big inflexible entity but that’s not the case. As I said, in my experience, if you reach out, talk to them ahead of time and let them know what’s going on, they will work with you to find a solution. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, for help or support,” Lefko said.

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