For the first time in Southwestern College’s 52-year history, student veterans have a resource center to help them navigate their way through college.
The Veterans Resource Center, a 725-square-foot building in room 345 where the math department once was, is fully equipped with a private room for personal and academic counseling, a computer lab, conference space and a lounge area for student-veterans to socialize.
Counseling and the school’s computer lab are available to every Southwestern College student, regardless of military service.
Before the resource center, the Student Veterans Organization would often hold meetings in an empty classroom, only to be forced out when the next class started. Now with the new center, the organization has a permanent meeting place, said Tim Walsh, president of the Student Veterans Organization.
Walsh said the reason why these services will be offered at the Veterans Resource Center is to make the student veterans more comfortable with getting assistance from other veterans.
Jim Jones, veterans service specialist and advisor to the Student Veterans Organization, said the center will eventually expand to offer tutoring, employment workshops and financial aid information.
Currently student veterans and all students can receive those services at the Student Services Center, also known as the Cesar Chavez Building.
Walsh, a Marine Corps veteran, said these amenities give student veterans a greater opportunity to succeed academically.
“It is proven that when you have these resources available for veteran students going back to school for the first time, they succeed the most because of these opportunities,” Walsh said.
Walsh said with the military downsizing, veterans more than ever before are enrolling in college.
Jones had been pushing the college to have a center since 1995 when he was a student veteran. He said back then there was “talk and the idea of bringing a center to campus” but nothing too serious.
Sixteen years later, he said, the center came to fruition because of the college’s current administration. He said the governing board has shown support for the college’s veterans.
Walsh said the center demonstrates the college’s commitment to student veterans.
Jones said he often heard complaints that the Veterans Services Center, located at the college’s Cesar Chavez
Building, was run more like a business and that students expressed a desire for a place that was more relaxed and where they could socialize while they got the services they need.
Governing board member Humberto Peraza said one reason it took so long for the veterans to have a place of their own was because of lack of funds and that there was no place on campus for such a center, until the math department consolidated with the science and engineering departments and moved to room 215.
Margie Reese, vice president of the Student Veterans Organization, said the resource center may be a little small for the more than 1,000 student veterans on campus, but she said she doesn’t care about the size of the building as long as student veterans have a place to go for help.
Reese said the resource center will help student veterans make the transition from combat to academia.
“Student veterans are used to having a weapon in their hands, but when they get here they have books in their hands,” she said. “That is a difficult transition and the Veterans’ Resource Center is here to help ease that transition.”
Jones anticipates the center to be fully staffed for the spring 2014 semester.