The Office of the Dean of Students hosted a reception Thursday to celebrate the grand opening of the Veteran Student Center. The center is meant to be a space for veteran students and active duty ROTC students. It is located in the former home of the LGBTQ center on the lower level of Newcomb, before the LGBTQ center moved to the third floor of Newcomb last year.
The reception began with a presentation from the ROTC Color Guard followed by the national anthem. Assistant Dean of Students David Sauerwein opened the reception by thanking the many individuals and groups who made the opening of the center possible.
Sauerwein thanked former university president Teresa Sullivan for signing a veterans’ pledge — which included creating this space for them — and the Jefferson Trust for helping fund the new center.
“I wanted to encourage my fellow civilians with us today to think about what you could do to support veterans in college and in our community,” Sauerwein said. “I would ask that we all consider beyond kind words as we take action. It is, after all, what veterans have done for all of us.
University President Jim Ryan also spoke at the reception and emphasized the importance of having a Veterans Center at the University.
“First and foremost, it should be a place where veterans can share stories – maybe stories that are hard to share elsewhere – and a place where you can both build community and strengthen the community that you already have, and a place where I hope you will feel even more at home,” Ryan said.
Ryan added that he hopes this new center will serve as a “home away from home” for the University’s many veteran students. He also announced the University’s goal to enroll more veterans in the future as they “embodied what this university aspires to be.”
“For those of you who don’t always feel at home at U.Va. because I know the culture of the military is different from the culture of higher education, please know that you all belong here and that you’re all welcome here,” Ryan said. “No matter where you’re from, no matter how long you serve, no matter if you’re the first generation in your family to go to college, you absolutely belong here. .”
Student Veterans of America president Timothy Brown, a US Navy veteran and sophomore, said the center will help bring college veterans together to help them “achieve their greatest potential.”
“What I’ve found is that a U.Va. veteran isn’t a single thing,” Brown said. “Looking around, we have a small community, but we We have a multitude of experiences and backgrounds, and I value that immensely, and I believe the Veterans Center Foundation says that U.Va. values that as well.
The University has about 50 veteran undergraduate students, while 5% of the graduate student population are veterans, Brown said. The University also partners with the Posse Foundation to bring approximately 10 undergraduate veterans to the University each year.
Several veteran students attended the event in support of the new center. As part of the decoration inside the center, an American flag that flew above a base in Afghanistan was donated.
Alan Macias, a Navy veteran and college freshman, said he found it strange when he came to college and there was no veterans center in place.
“I went to college before that, and we had like a whole veterans center,” Macias said. “So to get into U.Va. and not having it right away was a bit strange.
Last year, the University opened the Latinx Student Center to serve as a safe space for Latinx and Hispanic students and an Interfaith Student Center for students from diverse backgrounds to practice their own faiths and learn about beliefs. others. The University also hosts a Multicultural Student Center to support students from underrepresented and marginalized communities and an LGBTQ Center for allies and those who identify as LGBTQ+.
Kyle Deven, a Marine Corps veteran and college freshman, agreed that it’s helpful for veterans to have their own center.
“I think it’s good for us to have our own space…a lot of us, when we come to campus, aren’t traditional students, so we need that sense of togetherness and community,” Deven said.
Marquis Rice, an Army veteran and college freshman, added that he was very grateful for the opening of the center.
“I really believe this is a step for U.Va., but a giant leap for veterans around the world, is to navigate where the central location is where we could get all the information and talk to someone. one who actually went through the process of coming to [Virginia]and I was super grateful that it finally came to fruition,” Rice said.
The final speaker at the reception was Assistant Professor of Commerce Jeffrey Lovelace, an Army veteran who was also part of the effort to open up this space for veterans at the University. Lovelace stressed the importance of having a place for veterans in the university community.
“My sincere hope is that the creation of the VSC communicates to current and future student veterans, that we want you to hear that you belong here, and that if you come to U.Va., you are going to have a home that helps you succeed. in pursuit of the goals you have for the next chapter of your life,” Lovelace said.