For nontraditional student Ryan Stufflebean, Highlands College and veterans’ meet-and-greets are a godsend.
A military vet who spent seven years in the Army infantry, Stufflebean, 29, of Divide, started a new venture this semester: he enrolled full-time in college for the first time.
He ended his military stint two years ago and looked for a direction to take for his next life’s journey.
Now Stufflebean garners more all-around support as Highlands uses a two-year, $35,000 Veterans Success Initiative: Space and Services grant to address the needs of veteran students on both Montana Tech campuses.
It’s good timing for him, as the initiative took off last year. It allows the college to offer a designated vets’ lounge, various regular gatherings, orientation, a veterans’ appreciation luncheon and counseling.
After the Army and before enrolling in school, he helped his artist brother, Travis Stufflebean of Dillon, get his Meriwether Metalworks shop and gallery off the ground.
Now firmly entrenched in college life at Highlands, Ryan majors in biology.
Between classes, you can find him in the Highlands College Veteran Lounge, a cozy private space with computers, a refrigerator, high-end coffee, furniture and proud banners of each military branch donning the walls.
“I love it,” said Stufflebean of the lounge, which opened last spring. “I can come here and get thoughts down on paper for different writing assignments. It’s like a quiet office, but with different resources. It’s definitely a major perk.”