Male in background smiling, talking with two people in foreground

Veteran and alum, Mike Brennan, chats with current students at Veteran Support Services. Photo credit: Sarah Griffith

Hands holding OU Veteran Support Services pin and coin, over desk with red t-shirt, camouflage OU hat, and dog tags.

Current VSS Staff Coordinator Eric Wuestenberg offers Mike Brennan, first VSS liaison, veteran-specific swag.

Two men sitting across from each other at desk

VSS Staff Coordinator Eric Wuestenberg (left) and Mike Brennan (right), first VSS liaison, meet to discuss the progress of veteran support on OU’s campus.

icon of a calendarAugust 5, 2019

icon of a pencilBy Kelli Titus

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Military veterans know about facing challenges. Their perseverance and life experiences are unique, and require a supportive community of like-minded individuals to integrate back into civilian life.

“The military had a big impact on shaping me to be the person I am today,” says Mike Brennan, Oakland University alumnus and United States Army veteran. “I gained strength, discipline,
perspective and confidence from that part of my life.”

“I feel like my education had just as big of an impact,” he says. Brennan, CAS ’11, SEHS ’15, was instrumental in implementing support for veterans at Oakland University as the first liaison of Veteran Support Services (VSS) and founder of Student Veterans of OU (SVOU) student group. His role was just one of many, he attests, who played a part in improving the way OU embraces veterans.

Enlisting in the United States Army directly out of high school, Brennan was trained as a helicopter turbine mechanic, and throughout his six years of service spent much of his time
traveling. In 2008, Brennan finished his enlistment, and was ready for a new adventure back home in Michigan.

“I had learned a lot about how people live in different parts of the world,” Brennan says, “so I discovered a love for sociology and anthropology, which became my undergraduate major.”

While pursuing his undergraduate degree at OU, the University established the VSS office to better accommodate veteran students, and Brennan became the first veteran liaison, helping to
advocate for greater credit transfers on military training, as well as offering red, white and blue chords at graduation — honors sought to make veterans feel appreciated.

SVOU also focused on creating a welcoming space for vets, hosting “events and gatherings to foster a community among veteran students that proved vital to them succeeding in college,”
Brennan says.

This camaraderie is necessary for veterans acclimating to life out of the service, agrees Eric Wuestenberg, staff coordinator at VSS.

“What we have found is that we can replicate that camaraderie here with folks who we never served with and who are from a different military branch,” Wuestenberg says. “VSS and engaged SVOU members will once again serve a greater good — they’ll help their fellow student veterans with all their questions and develop charity events and ways to give back.”

Today, there are more than 350 military-connected students at OU. The VSS has a new, welcoming space equipped with computers, meeting and lounge areas, and office spaces. And for the third straight year, the University received a gold ranking from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency — the highest possible rating for veteran-friendliness.

“None of this happens, none of this even exists without Mike,” says Wuestenberg. “He laid the foundation to what VSS and SVOU would become: an all encompassing ‘one stop shop’ for all things military connected.”

Brennan’s drive for helping others didn’t stop at veterans — after completing his degree and time as liaison, Brennan became an admissions adviser at OU, working with inner city kids on college preparations. With this new knack for connecting with high schoolers, Brennan pursued a Master of Arts in counseling, and is now employed as a high school counselor in Ortonville, Michigan.

“As a 17 year-old kid who was enlisting in the army, I never thought I would set foot in a high school again,” confesses Brennan. “Now, I get to help students navigate the tough parts of
life, as they figure out their dreams and aspirations.”

Brennan used his military experiences as stepping stones to carve his path in life. And in doing so, enhanced the lives of not only the young students he counsels, but the lives of every student veteran that passes through OU and finds comfort and camaraderie in the support services.

“Coming to school as a veteran and a non-traditional student was a challenge at first, but I realized we bring perspectives into each class that no other student could bring,” says Brennan.

“We veterans have overcome so much during our military careers, that college is just one more challenge to face down.”

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