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Apr 17 / Ken Smith

Is Having a Student Veterans Resource Center Enough?

Absolutely not, but it sure makes a difference in the success or failure of veterans transitioning from service member to scholar.

Veterans transitioning from the military to civilian life have numerous challenges. For Example:

  • Packing up and moving from one state to another
  • Finding a good place to live in a safe neighbor with goods schools for their kids
  • Finding adequate employment to provide for their family
  • Finding the right school where they fit in so they can obtain the degree that they always imagined.

Most of these challenges would be stressful for anyone but what if you had to do all these at the same time while learning to speak differently or act differently than you have for the last 4 – 20 years just so you fit in?

In the book Called to Serve: A Handbook on Student Veterans and Higher Education, experts recommend that universities implement the following practices to ensure academic success of their student veterans.

  • Identification of specific sources of contact within campus offices
  • Creation of campus working groups that span departments
  • Collaborative initiatives with community organizations to provide comprehensive services
  • Development of orientation programs to ensure that veterans and service members receive thorough introductions to the institution
  • Establishment of Student Veterans Groups
  • Targeted education efforts for faculty and staff that address specific issues affecting this population
  • Creation of veteran-specific resource centers, space on campus and learning communities
  • Streamlining of disability services and veteran services

You can always measure the level of commitment that a company or in this case a university has towards a project by the amount of money they are willing to spend on its success.  The veterans that are attending Wayne State University are fortunate to have strong supportive leadership in key positions because this university has supported all those listed items. In fact, Wayne State University provides leadership in the region for other institutes as an example of what “right” looks like from a veteran perspective.

Of all those items listed, the Student Veterans Resource Center (SVRC) is probably the heartbeat of our efforts. Wayne’s veterans have one of the few real Student Veteran Resource Centers in the country. Most centers are simply an office with some information racks directing them to another office.

Not at Wayne. Ours is a fully staffed and funded safe haven for our transitioning veterans including the following:

  • Computer Lab with 15 stations
  • Quiet study rooms
  • Kitchen
  • Game Room and Lounge
  • Peer Mentoring
  • Vet to Vet Tutoring
  • Community Service Opportunities
  • Fund Raising and numerous campus events

The SVRC is managed by Patrick Hannah, a Marine veteran himself and also a 2-time Alumni of Wayne State receiving both his BSW and MSW and daily operations is conducted by 6 VA Work Study students. Pat founded the current Student Veterans Organization (SVO) which has grown to be the largest of its kind in the Mid-West and is now the Faculty Advisor.  His efforts contributed significantly to the building and success of all programs established here on campus that provide comprehensive support for our returning veterans.

The word is getting out. Wayne State’s veteran population has been growing significantly over the last few years because of the services we provide. There are currently ~600 student veterans on campus. As a result, starting May 1st 2014 through the Spring/Summer semester, the SVRC will be closed for renovations and reopened in time for the Fall semester. The new design will continue to offer the same services but it will foster increased support by way of doubling the quiet study area. The renovations will segregate the noisier areas like the lounge, game room and lunch area away from the quieter computer labs and silent study so veterans can really roll up their sleeves and get quality work done. We have been looking forward to this for a long time and all veterans that frequent the SVRC are excited about the improvements.

A veteran can choose to go anywhere they want to use their earned educational benefits. Some choose to attend online, distance or for–profit colleges that cater to adult learners, works around their schedules and maximizes course credit for their military training.  More simply, they make it easier for veterans to get degrees.  So if a military veteran is attending Wayne State then they made a decision to obtain a more traditional education over that path of least resistance. In other words, they recognize the value in earning a university education and they want to obtain that education measured against the same standard as all other students in their degree field.

The Student Veterans Resource Center has and will continue to be Wayne State’s doorway to a support system that fosters academic excellence, academic success and one that provides a smooth transition back to its new Warriors.