Benefits coordinator wants to build opportunities for military-connected students

Engen, an Eau Claire native, served 30 years in U.S. Army, worked in leadership development
Pam Powers | June 17, 2021

As Chris Engen wrapped up his 30-year Army military career, he wanted an opportunity to give back to other veterans and service members still serving the United States.

The University of Wisconsin-Stout military education benefits coordinator position seemed like a perfect fit and allowed Engen, who retired as a colonel, to return to the Eau Claire area where he grew up and graduated from Memorial High School. Engen started at UW-Stout on May 3.

Engen provides leadership, support and services to the approximately 450 student veterans, active military and eligible student family members, including helping to provide coordination of military and veteran education benefits. He also assists in the recruitment, retention and support of those students as well as serves as a liaison on issues or concerns that may impact those students.

“I enjoy working in education,” Engen said. “When I was in the military, I worked with many great people who were teammates and friends. That sense of teamwork and camaraderie is something that I enjoyed and it influenced what became a long Army career. I sought an opportunity to help bring that sense of community, work with students and give back.”

Chris Engen
Chris Engen photo / UW-Stout photo

Growing up in the Chippewa Valley, Engen wanted to join the Army. “I was interested in national service,” he said. “I was drawn to the Army’s history and traditions and the broad range of career field opportunities.”

Before starting at UW-Stout, Engen directed the U.S. Army Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention Academy in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for four years. In the position he led faculty and staff to develop and deliver specialized education, including leader development.

Before that he was deputy chief of staff for exercises, training and innovation and chief of organizational development at the NATO Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway. He managed three divisions of senior military and civilian personnel from multiple nations who provide education, training and support within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Engen graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a bachelor’s degree in political science-international relations and has a master’s degree from Long Island University in counseling and leader development.

His goal is to continue to build UW-Stout Veteran Services. “I want to continue to build maximum opportunities for our military-connected students and help them achieve their goals,” Engen said. “I want to make the information accessible and the process as easy and efficient as possible for them. UW-Stout is a great place for veterans and military-connected students to achieve their goals.”

UW-Stout has a 97.8% employment and continuing education rate for graduates, Engen noted. Veterans are looking for opportunities to take the next step in their lives, and UW-Stout’s educational opportunities that lead to careers resonates with them, he noted.

Engen knows of the value of UW-Stout too as a university parent. His son, Connor, is a junior dual majoring in mechanical engineering and manufacturing engineering.

Eric Konsela, Registration and Records associate registrar, said Engen brings a vast knowledge of military education benefits and leadership to UW-Stout with his career experience. “Chris has hit the ground running since starting at UW-Stout in early May and continues to provide great customer service to our veteran and military-connected students,” Konsela said. “I am very excited about the future of Veteran Services here at UW-Stout with Chris leading the way.”

Veterans Mentorship Program

 Engen hopes to grow the Veteran Mentorship Program, which matches student veterans with newer student veterans to help them set and achieve their academic and personal goals. UW-Stout was the first UW System school to offer the comprehensive peer mentorship program. It is offered through the Mentor Collective platform.

 

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Eric Konsela / UW-Stout photo

The goal is to have about 100 mentee and mentor combinations this fall, Engen said. In its pilot year, about 20 mentors and mentees were paired. Peer-to-peer mentoring is designed to help first-year students build relationships and increase retention and graduation.

UW-Stout also has Stout MentorLink for first-year students that matches them with an upper-level student peer mentor to help connect and to increase retention. The program also gives upper-level students a leadership opportunity and a chance to give back to UW-Stout.

The university has a Military and Veteran Resource Center, a dedicated on-campus space for veterans, service members and their families, located at 305 Bowman Hall. It serves as a centralized location for veterans to ask questions about education benefits and participate in veteran-specific activities.

UW-Stout was named a Best for Vets College in 2020 by the Military Times. The university also has a Hall of Heroes installation at the Memorial Student Center honoring students and staff who died in military service to the U.S. UW-Stout is part of the Northwoods Battalion Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps with UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls.


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