Last Veteran’s Day Jeff Helfgott, an MBA student at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, arrived in class to find his picture on a projection screen. The snapshot, taken more than five years ago, was during his time as an officer in the U.S. Army, stationed in Iraq.

Kellogg professor Nabil Al-Najjar, who once lived in Baghdad, had requested the five U.S. Military veterans in his class provide a picture in uniform. They had all served in Iraq or Afghanistan, most leading troops under direct enemy fire.

“I was surprised and honored by how much professor Al-Najjar respected what I and the other veterans had done,” Helfgott said. “He showed our pictures in a slideshow and told our classmates about our service. To get that kind of recognition from a world-class faculty member really meant something to me.”

Helfgott is one of 169 Northwestern students using educational benefits through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. These students include veterans, active duty personnel and dependents of veterans and active duty personnel. One hundred and thirty-two students are using the Post 9-11 GI Bill.

As more veterans complete their service and return from the war, Northwestern’s veteran population is expected to grow, said Julia Jenkins, senior assistant director of financial aid at Northwestern.

“We make sure these students know how to use their VA benefits and other benefits that are available to them through the University,” Jenkins said. “We do what we can to give back to them for their service.”

Thirty percent of the students using the Post 9-11 GI Bill are eligible for assistance from the Yellow Ribbon program, which is available to those who have served 36 months or more of active duty since September 11, 2011, have separated from active duty service and are using the Post 9-11 GI Bill.

The program allows private universities to give extra funding to veterans whose tuition and fees exceed that of the in-state maximum allowed by the general Post 9-11 GI Bill. Institutions voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon agreement with VA and choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. For example, this academic year Kellogg is offering $15,000 per student, up to 50 students, in Yellow Ribbon funds.

While veterans come to Northwestern to pursue degrees in a number of its colleges, from the School of Continuing Studies to Feinberg School of Medicine, Kellogg has the most veterans enrolled.

“Kellogg has been fantastic in helping us grow the veteran community at Northwestern,” Helfgott said. “We have about 55 student veterans involved in the Kellogg Veterans Association, and we have Top Gun pilots, Special Forces soldiers, submariners – a wide range of military individuals who have the same mentality, focus and goals.”

This Friday will be Helfgott’s last Veteran’s Day on campus. He graduates from Kellogg at the end of this academic year and already has a job lined up.

“The U.S. Military is known as one of the world’s premier developers of leaders,” Helfgott said. “When you couple that with the pedigree and education from Northwestern, that makes you uniquely positioned to lead.”

Join the Conversation


  1. Welcome home for soldiers?

    News programs show towns having welcome home ceremonies for soldiers returning from the Middle East.

    Has Evanston done this or does liberal Evanston want to forget these soldiers and what they did despite the residents views on the wars ?

    1. Welcome home—even a simple neighborhood gathering

      I'd did not mean a city sponsored or paid parade—the Council would debate it for months and probably make it a debate like the 'no nukes' debate at the time of the Research Park.

      No I'm just  talking about neighbors and friends.  Still the Council would probably stop even that—let alone the north shore liberals.

      1. A simple gathering of trolls

        Stop trolling and add something useful to these comment boards.

        Your blind anger just amplifies your thoughtlessness and offensive remarks aimed at just about everyone in this city.

        Just because liberals don't wear American flag lapel pins or mumble the Star Spangled banner as they're walking down the street doesn't mean we don't give a damn about the brave and selfless American soldiers who protect our country.

        I have a nephew who served 3 tours in Iraq and 2 in Afghanistan and I couldn't be more proud or in awe of him and what he had to go through. So stop throwing your generalized insults around at the citizens of this city, of whom you know nothing about.

  2. Welcome Home

    I am not sure if Evanston has any programs to help returning Veteran's assimilate.  I would hope they do.  I applaud NU for leveraging the VA benefits (post 9-11 GI Bill) to welcome veterans into the classroom.

    As for a parade in Evanston, I do not think this will ever happen.  For one, the city is broke, so how would they pay for a parade (albeit costs may not be that excessive).

    Second, Evanston harbors a climate that MAY no be condusive to a parade.  I would suspect that there simply MAY not be the will, desire or good will to our country and soldiers to have a parade due to political ideology within the City Council and resident base in general.  

    I guess this is a part of "fundamental change."  I guess there would also be marchers and protesters at the parade.

    I hope I am wrong, and emphasize the term MAY.

  3. The silence is deafening

    You will not hear anything from Evanston's City Official" nor many residents. They prefer to bask in the light of freedom and liberty provided them by courageous men and women who've served in the military while most don't have the guts to do the same. They prefer to pound their wimpy fists against their tie dyed shirts demanding more from government and the "wealthy" while sitting on their butts sipping green tea, But no, you won't see any downtown Evanston parade, celebration or a simple "thank you for serving" coming from most folks in Evanston. 

    1. Remembering …

      In your bitterness you seem to be forgetting about the officials and residents who turn out for Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances at Fountain Square.

      — Bill

      1. We’re appreciated

        Thank you, Bill for pointing out events for us Veterans in Evanston. Most Veterans don't want parades or special recognition. The Veterans Day and Memorial Day celebrations in downtown Evanston are very special and each year Evanston Now does a wonderful job of publishing the events.

        Most Vets understand that many people (especially in Evanston) oppose the wars we fight, but don't oppose those of us who freely choose to fight them.

        It's all part of the freedoms we enjoy.

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