By Nikki Koontz
Southern Utah University
CEDAR CITY—As military personnel are discharged from the armed forces, they wonder “what’s next”? For a record number of veterans, college has become the answer. However, the transition from the regimented lifestyle of active duty to civilian life can be difficult.
With the perspective acquired from their time at war, veterans may feel alienated and isolated when surrounded by classmates who are often younger and less experienced. Veterans can also face many stereotypes including the image of a far-right ideologue suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
With more than 450 veterans on campus, Southern Utah University has made substantial efforts to help these individuals overcome higher education obstacles and meet their unique needs.
As the state’s only Purple Heart University, SUU has an active Veterans Resource and Support Center staffed with ten veterans: two full-time and eight part-time employees. These individuals have a keen understanding of military culture and are aware of the challenges that veterans face when pursuing their degrees.
“We are here to support and accommodate all military connected students,” said SUU Veterans Affairs Director Caleb Vadnais. “Military veterans, active duty, reservist and dependents are welcome to use the services provided by the Center.”
Those services include assistance in gaining and processing documentation necessary to attain veteran benefits, assistance connecting with mental health counselors, aid in preparing for and finding appropriate medical attention, academic advisement, free tutoring, free textbooks, moral support and fellowship. The center staff is dedicated to helping fellow veterans succeed in their academic endeavors.
“The Veterans Center is great,” said Army veteran Keith Mason. “I had no expectation of getting benefits because I had been out of the military for so long, but the guys in there walked me through the process so I could get my benefits.”
The Veterans Center offers a lounge area where students can relax and mingle with one another. It’s a space where veterans can connect with each other and share similar military experiences, which alleviates feelings of isolation.
Vadnais and his staff also collaborate with the Veterans Affairs office in St. George, Utah to provide counseling services twice a week at SUU. The resource center works with faculty and staff to help veterans keep their medical appointments. Vadnais says that “it can take six to eight months on average to see a doctor through the Department of Veterans Affairs. We work with the Provost’s Office to excuse students for these appointments.”
SUU celebrated Veterans Day on November 10 with a special observation program in the Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center.
If you have any questions or would like more information about the Veterans Resource and Support Center, call (435) 865-8477 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.