Student center

The university opens a center for veteran students in Newcomb Hall

Veterans are non-traditional students and as such they have non-traditional needs.

To help meet these needs, the University of Virginia has established a Veterans Student Center at Newcomb Hall.

“It’s designed as a gathering space for veterans, especially our undergraduate veteran population,” said David Sauerwein, assistant dean of students who have worked at the center. “They have specific needs which are also related to their non-traditional age. With their service experience and life experience, they are often in a different place of development than many UVA undergraduates. Some are married, others have children, and sometimes they are not looking for the same undergraduate experiences as other students.

The center, a joint project of Student Veterans of America @ UVA, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Jefferson Trust, officially opened on Thursday, with university president Jim Ryan among those delivering remarks.

Ryan told veterans at the opening ceremony that the center was a place where they could build community, grow and benefit from the center’s educational and social programming.

“And it’s a place that I hope will help you remember that you belong here at UVA,” Ryan said. “No matter where you are from, or whether you are the first in your family to attend university, whether you are a graduate or undergraduate student, or whatever your background, you are welcome here, and you make also part of what makes us the University of Virginia. You are part of what makes us one of the most vibrant college communities in the world. When you graduate, I know you will have helped shape this place, just as the UVA rays will have helped shape you.”

Ryan said it was a difficult time for veterans and the country, with the challenge of the pandemic and recent events in Afghanistan, noting that veterans bring with them different perspectives and emotions.

“I am heartbroken by the tragic loss of life since our time in Afghanistan and am deeply grateful to those who have sacrificed so much to make the world a better place,” Ryan said. “I also learned that some of you are involved in a program to help refugees from Afghanistan. This does not surprise me, given your extraordinary commitment to service, but it inspires me. Because that’s what it’s all about: using your time here to lead, serve others, and engage with the world even when it may require sacrifice. That’s what makes UVA great and good.

Other speakers included Veterans Association President Tim Brown and Jeffrey Lovelace, assistant professor of commerce at the McIntire School of Commerce and veteran who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Lovelace said veteran students across the country, despite their experience, knowledge, skills and abilities, are underrepresented at top institutions of higher education. He noted that the AVU in 2014 accepted a set of guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education to help veterans succeed and that the center was a key step in that process.

“The mission of AVU is to develop responsible citizen-leaders and professionals,” Lovelace said. “Who better to be part of this mission than a group of students who have already proven themselves to be citizen-leaders, leaders with real-world experience, who have volunteered to go to the most most complex and stressful things imaginable to support our nation and the freedom of others around the world. Plus, one of the greatest things about our military is how it reflects the wonderful diversity that makes our country so special. Our student veterans come from all types of backgrounds, but they have all demonstrated a commitment to serving others above themselves.This embodies what we value here at UVA.

“Veterans are one of the smallest minorities in the field,” Brown, who served in the Navy, said in an interview ahead of the opening ceremony. “We are people used to a strong sense of camaraderie and community. The VSC will help connect veterans in the field and provide them with the resources needed to be successful at AVU.

“In addition, many undergraduate student veterans are transfer students and come from campuses with dedicated student veteran centers. The VSC will bring the veteran experience to the standard that people have come to expect from a prestigious university like UVA.

The center is housed in room 42 on the lower level of Newcomb, near the offices of the Cavalier Daily, the independent student newspaper. It includes a main room with sofas, chairs and movable tables and two large display screens, and a smaller room with a display screen that can be used as a conference space.

“We got feedback from veterans on the look and function of the space so it could meet their needs,” Sauerwein said. “Many veterans live a little further from Central Grounds, so there will be a few lockers in the VSA to use, and there is room to study or wait between classes.

“It’s also a good program space. There is technology available to have speakers on screen or for them to use in person. We anticipate having opportunities to learn more about their [Veterans’ Administration] benefits so that they can take full advantage of what they have earned. We can also have social occasions there.

Brown, a sophomore who plans to apply to the McIntire School of Commerce, said the project – initiated by Thomas Doyle, his predecessor as SVA president – ​​has taken longer than expected, but the University is committed to creating a space dedicated to veterans. .

“In addition to giving veterans a space to build community on Grounds, we hope this space will give us momentum and open a dialogue about the veteran experience at UVA,” Brown said. “We believe the AVU is making great strides in admitting and supporting undergraduate veterans, but there is still a lot of work to do.”

Brown said an eventual goal is for the University to hire a full-time veteran director who would advocate for veterans, help them navigate their GI Bill benefits, and ease their transition to civilian and college life. Brown said the University is currently home to about 50 veteran undergraduate students; approximately 5% of the graduate student population are veterans, with a concentration in business and law. UVA is ranked #10 in the nation among the best schools for veterans, according to US News & World Report rankings.

“We would also like the University to admit more veterans,” Brown said. “UVA partners with the Posse Foundation, which brings approximately 10 undergraduate veterans to Grounds each year. Apart from this partnership, there are no initiatives to attract veterans to UVA. We believe that the University and all of its students are missing out on a tremendous opportunity. Veterans bring a ton of diversity and offer a government-backed tuition check.

Sauerwein is the University Liaison for the Posse Foundation and he oversees and operates this program with others on Grounds.

“Veterans are an underrepresented group at the UVA and it was good to bring more of them into our community,” Sauerwein said. “They also add to the richness of our community, bringing a variety of perspectives that add depth to our classrooms. I’ve heard faculty members talk about the contributions of veterans. Many undergraduate veterans also have cross-identities. Many are first-generation, low-income, and have a variety of racial and ethnic identities. And veterans have the unique experience of having represented our country – some in combat, but all in uniform.