Veteran Finds Warm Welcome at CWI

Published: November 20, 2017

After spending years in the armed forces, many veterans attend college seeking degrees to help them discover the next chapter in their lives. A number of these veterans choose the College of Western Idaho (CWI) to begin their educational journey.

Dusty Johns, a 41-year-old Machine Tool Technology major and Gene Haas Scholarship recipient, is one such student.

Johns served 14 years in the National Guard. His service included deployment to Bosnia and Afghanistan – in 2014 he was medically discharged for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Two years later, he arrived at CWI, attracted by its convenience and affordability. Johns felt CWI could provide a promising future.

“I chose to come to CWI because of the Welding Program,” he said. “I want to build, make, customize, and fix guns.”

Johns, who said he has enjoyed his time at CWI, switched majors after his Welding Instructor, Mike Wheeler, helped him discover a bright career path.

“He really was a great welder,” Wheeler said, “but I saw right away he needed the Machine Tool Program – We want what’s best for the student.”

This type of support offered by CWI faculty is valuable for veterans. Veteran students can find it challenging to integrate into the routines of college life and navigate the benefits designed to help them succeed. Knowing they have support built in through student services and faculty is a huge help. Most recently, CWI has created VA-funded work-study positions for student veterans.

CWI offers many resources for students, like Johns, including the Student Veterans Association. Assistant Professor of Accounting, Joe Welker, and CWI alumnus, Dallas Hulsey, are both veterans and association advisors.

“We want to assist veterans who are returning from duty and help them assimilate into the college lifestyle,” Welker said.

In addition to serving alongside Welker as an association advisor, Hulsey is also the Veterans Services Coordinator at the College, helping fellow veterans navigate the Veterans Affairs system and organize social events to help ease the sometimes uncomfortable transition into civilian and student life. Johns expressed how valuable it was to have a Veterans Services Coordinator explain his options. “I was a lot better off,” he said.

“If I can get one more veteran to figure something out and to start doing something with their life, then that’s what I want,” Johns said. “Everybody at CWI is super-helpful.”

The College hopes veterans are inspired by Johns’ success story and can likewise experience the support and tools offered here; a hope Johns shares.


Headshot of Aj Anderson

Aj Anderson


Anderson is a Communication student at the College and one of several students participating in an exciting partnership between CWI's Communication 273—Media News Writing and Reporting class and the CWI Communications and Marketing Department to generate content for the College.

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