Events on campus ease veterans’ transition to college

Rachel Christian

Joel Matherly doesn’t think veterans at USI are getting all the help and resources available to them. He would know – Matherly, a USI alumnus who now works in the Veterans’ Support Services Office, was once a student vet himself.

“Student veterans are non-traditional students,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t quite found their niche on campus.”

That’s why Matherly made it a priority to organize USI’s Military and Veteran Appreciation and Resource Fair and Dinner. The fair will feature booths and information on the three subjects that impact student vets the most: jobs, education and behavioral health.

“It really takes the guess work out of it,” he said.

A common problem with vets going back to school is that they don’t have big campus social lives, Matherly said.  They’re busy taking care of kids or trying to pay the bills, so they often go straight home after class.

He wanted to create an event where veterans could come with their friends and families to get answers about what is available to them, while also connecting with other former soldiers.

The event isn’t just for veterans, though. Matherly encourages spouses, dependents or anyone with connections to the military to attend.

“There will be businesses there looking to hire,” he said. “You could go and say to yourself, ‘Hey my cousin is a vet looking for a job. I should really tell him that company is hiring.’”

Colonel Roger Peterman is the guest speaker at the dinner, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Carter Hall. Peterman serves as Indiana’s Transition Assistance Adviser. He helps make the transition from solider to civilian as seamless as possible.

“Indiana is one of the most veteran-friendly states in the country,” Peterman said. “We want to make sure they’re using the help and resources available to them.”

Matherly hopes this event will spread awareness about his office, which has been working with the university to get students the support they need.

One accomplishment he is proud of is the veteran student lounge that opened last February in the lower level of the Pott College of Science, Engineering and Education.

Matherly said he wants the 252 student veterans at USI to know they’re not alone.

“A lot of student vets won’t seek out other student vets because they’re afraid of looking weak,” he said. “But it’s not like that. We’ve been through all the same problems already, and we’re here to help.”

FAST FACTS:

  • What: Military and Veteran Appreciation and Resource Fair and Dinner
  • When: 3 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Carter Hall in University Center West
  • Dinner is by reservation only