Savanna Hebert-Annis holds three degrees from IU South Bend, directs services and programming for the Office of Veteran Student Services on campus, and recently accepted an opportunity to extend her service to the broader IU system as university coordinator, IU Military and Veteran Services.
A graduate of Plymouth High School in 2007, Savanna looked to IU South Bend for both the convenience in location and the affordability. She wanted to earn her degrees without accumulating student debt.
As a first-generation college student, Savanna found the transition to IU South Bend was a lot to take in as she learned the terminology and how to navigate the academic world. Undaunted by the rough patches she experienced, she decided to pursue dual degrees in Spanish and criminal justice.
Savanna proved to be a stand-out and became noticed through her studies. She was invited to join the Honors Program under then-director Jonathan Nashel. She was also approached by Lesley Walker, her academic advisor, about doing some temp work. That led Savanna to part-time work creating posters, tutoring Spanish students, and working in the Language Resource Center on campus.
Savanna’s engagement on campus led to additional opportunities and she accepted a full-time position as administrative assistant working in the Dean’s Office in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2011. In 2012 she moved to the Department of English where she continued to serve as an administrative assistant. Over the years, Savanna developed great relationships with her professors, university administrators, and her fellow students. She noted Linda Schultz-Heidrich in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a mentor that she was fortunate to work with and learn from then, and still work with all of these years later.
It took seven years, including a break in her studies to help take her of her mother who became ill, and included full-time work alongside her course load, but in 2014 Savanna graduated with high distinction, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, and a certificate in International Studies.
After graduating Savanna continued working for the Department of English until November 2015 when she took a new position as assistant registrar with the Office of the Registrar. In this role she was in charge of the Advanced College Project, where high school students earn college credits, as well as military education benefits. Recognizing her interest in pursuing a career in higher education administration, Savanna began her master’s degree in 2016 to open up additional career opportunities. She graduated with a Master in Liberal Studies in 2020.
Savanna really enjoyed her master’s degree coursework and found the varied topics to be enriching, challenging, and fun. Returning to the student role, she had more life experience and saw things through a whole different lens. Savanna enjoyed more fluid conversations with her professors and peers, as well as being able to delve into materials in more depth. She considers herself a lifelong learner, and loves thinking critically and getting outside the box.
In June 2019 Savanna moved into the role of assistant director in the Office of Veteran Student Services (OVSS). There she has worked to create an inclusive support center that serves students as a liaison to the Department of Veteran Affairs, Indiana Department of Veteran Affairs, the IU South Bend campus-community, IU community, and our region.
About her work Savanna says, “I want those with a military affiliation to have a sense of belonging here, so they can be comfortable to be who they are as they transition back to civilian life, to have each other to lean on, with faculty and staff support.”
Savanna serves an average of 300-400 students, from veteran, active duty, and dependents (spouses or children). Through a combination of outreach efforts and collaboration with campus offices and academic units she has seen an increase in dependents accessing their GI Bill benefits.
Under Savanna’s leadership IU South Bend has receive Military Friendly Campus designation bronze designation in 2021-22 and Top Ten for Small Public Institutions for the 2022-23 academic year. It took several years to mobilize for the first application, and the feedback provided a review of what improvements were needed. With this information Savanna is able to develop programs and services for the betterment of our students. The designation provides recognition for the campus, and IU as a whole, nationally
Of her successes in OVSS, Savanna says the relationships she’s forged with the students have been the high point. They want to know she’ll be at Commencement celebrating with them, to which she says, “Absolutely!” They reach out after graduation to stay in touch and share updates. She loves to see them continue to grow after their time at IU South Bend.
Though Savanna has familial roots with the Army and Navy, she has not served in the military herself, and has had to build trust with those she serves on campus, about which she notes, “It has been a humbling journey.”
In October 2022, Savanna took on additional responsibilities as the university military and veteran services coordinator. In addition to her role at IU South Bend she now assists all IU campuses in their efforts to support our active military, veteran, and military affiliated students as they pursue their IU degree.
In addition to serving students and responding to questions about VA resources and navigating the complex and multi-faceted state and federal VA systems, Savanna serves as a subject matter expert for the state approving agency. She reviews program and credit adjustments to provide feedback on what is beneficial, or not, as policy changes within the Indiana Department of Veteran Affairs are considered or new programs are proposed.
In addition to serving students and responding to questions about VA resources and navigating the complex and multi-faceted state and federal VA systems, Savanna serves as a subject matter expert. She reviews program and credit adjustments to provide feedback on what is beneficial, or not, as policy changes within the Indiana Department of Veteran Affairs are considered or new programs are proposed.
It is clear that Savanna Hebert-Annis loves being able to help others achieve their goals, whether students, family members, or colleagues. Her life motto is to “be kind.” Simple, effective, and so greatly appreciated by those she works with. After 12 years of experience serving IU South Bend, she is now able to expand her reach, and work with colleagues and students across the IU system.
The Office of Veteran Student Services is not just for military affiliated students. Savanna is interested in breaking down stigma surrounding the military community, and connecting the OVSS to the campus and region. Visit their website to learn more and get involved.