A new spot for student veterans

Jessie Hellmann

Student veterans now have a new place they can hang out on campus.

USI’s Veterans Support Services office celebrated its student veteran lounge grand opening Monday in the lower level of the Pott College of Science, Engineering and Education.

“We’re here to talk to students who are veterans, to have a place to come or to study quietly,” said Stephen Rayner, Veterans Support Services Associate.  “We always want to do something here for the veterans. The university has been a big supporter of anything veteran-related. They want to do this to show support for the veterans, and I thank them for their gratitude. This is just a little area we got for them.”

Rayner said 327 student veterans attend USI and will be able to use this service.
Veterans Support Services also helps student veterans with applying for and using Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits and interacting with counselors, among other services, Rayner said.

Associate Registrar Linda Trible had a hand in planning the lounge.

“We wanted to provide a nice, quiet area that’s away from the hubbub of everything,” Trible said.

She said veterans need a space like the lounge because they are unique.

“They bring to campus so many more different experiences than the normal student,” Trible said. “These guys have been overseas. They have fought for our country. They have served our country, and they come back, and there is a definite transition period for them to go from that very structured military life to school.”

She said the Veterans Support Services office helps veterans realize they’re not alone.

“They’re not the only ones maybe having doubts or having issues with some of the academic policies and so forth,” Trible said.  “We feel that this is a very important office. It’s doing a lot for a large community of students.”

The office is lacking funding, she said. It has been funded by two grants the Registrar’s Office received from the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University and made possible through funding from Lilly Endowment, Inc., she said.

The first $50,000 grant ran from July 2010 through June 2011 and the second $95,000 grant was in effect from July 2011 through June 2012.

The funds were used in the Veterans Support Services office to expand programming for veterans, their families and active duty service members, she said.

Furniture, computers and printers for the lounge  were purchased through the grants plus additional funding through the Office of the Provost, she said.

She said the office is trying to find a permanent funding source.

“We’re putting in a budget request to the university, and we feel that we have the justification to fund it,” Trible said. “But (USI President) Dr. Bennett said money is really tight, and there are lots of other areas that need funding.”

Bennett, who also attended the grand opening, said it’s a good step forward.

“We have a feeling of caring about those who come to our campus,” Bennett said. “I just think this is a good step forward. We want to be part of whatever we can to help veterans take the next step.”