When classes began for the 2020 Spring Semester at William Woods earlier this month, the Show-Me GOLD program saw its biggest enrollment to date. Established at WWU in 2018 as a degree program that prepares young men and women to serve as commissioned officers in the Missouri National Guard, the program began the semester with eleven new students, a number comparable to the amount of students enrolled during the first year of the GOLD program at other Missouri universities.
“We are pleased at the growth we are experiencing in the GOLD program, which benefits both the university in terms of enrollment and the State of Missouri by providing commissioned officers to the Missouri National Guard,” said Scott Zimmerman, Instructor of Leadership and Military Studies at WWU. “As one of only five Missouri universities to offer Show-Me GOLD and the only one in mid-Missouri, we are confident about our future prospects at The Woods.”
But even before establishing Show-Me GOLD on campus, William Woods had already built a proud history of supporting members of the military looking to further their education. Members of multiple branches of the military have attended classes at WWU and been welcomed by faculty and staff through the years, earning the university the official designation as a Military Friendly school.
The cost, support and career services, and flexibility – all hallmarks of the WWU experience – are among the most important factors in college decision-making for veterans. William Woods’ online and part-time study options, as well as the freedom to start and stop as needed, provide the flexibility students need to finish their degrees as their schedule allows. These features were attractive to two current military students at The Woods, Brian Winkelmann and Shannon Bamvakais.
Winkelmann just returned from a year-long tour in the Middle East with the Army Reserve and Bamvakais just finished her AIT (Advanced Infrantry Training) last semester with the Missouri National Guard.
“I came to William Woods as a freshman in 2016 and was not sure what I wanted to do,” said Winkelmann. “I joined a fraternity in the middle of the year that has a military background, as does my family. I then decided to continue to the family tradition and joined the Army Reserve in October 2016,” he said.
“When the Show-Me GOLD program came to campus, I was already looking at changing my major at William Woods, so I started talking to CPT Kirk and SSG Davis. I kept going through the process of joining, and then was officially sworn in April of 2019,” said Bamvakais. She took a semester off at William Woods to go to basic training and AIT, and was welcomed back for the spring 2020 semester as president of her sorority.
Some of William Woods’ professors are also retired military members, so Bamvakais and Winkelman have found support when they need to leave for training or any other military responsibilities.
“When we are needed, you just have to pull out of classes and go. I was gone for two semesters. It can become hard to know when you are going to graduate because I could need to go on a tour again at any time,” said Winkelmann. “Luckily for me I left for basic training and my deployment at the end of semesters. Between those though, I would have trainings that could be two weeks long. My professors here at The Woods would adapt my classes to keep me up-to-date with the other students who were physically in class.”
“Being a sorority member and president, it can be more difficult to balance with the National Guard than actual classes, because a lot of our training is on the weekend, which is also when we have sorority events,” said Bamvakais. “So we have had to do some schedule rearranging in my sorority to balance everything.”
One of the factors that students have to consider when contemplating service as an active duty member of the military while also being a college student is how long it will take them to graduate. At William Woods, all students are accommodated, not just those on a four-year plan.
“I was a little nervous about leaving because I knew I would graduate late, but I knew it was something I really wanted to do,” said Bamvakais.
Support can come from many places, both inside and outside of William Woods for our military members.
“My fraternity brothers were really supportive of me joining the military and going on a deployment,” said Winkelmann. “They checked in on me often and I also had fraternity brothers from other chapters who were also on tour during the same time I was. The fraternity and William Woods are really great about working with students and finding ways to make classes work for us.”
Winkelmann was also featured in his fraternity’s magazine for his military service.
While many students have other obligations outside of classes, being a military member takes an extra commitment level. William Woods works closely with all of our students to let them complete school while pursuing outside interests, especially those students that are serving their country in the military. For more on the university’s military-friendly policies, please visit: