The transition to a new campus can be difficult for anyone; however, veterans attending a university face unique challenges that the typical college student does not face.
With near 400 students throughout Salisbury University who are veterans or are military connected, SU’s Student Military and Veterans Association is working to make that transition easier with the establishment of a new lounge reserved for all student veterans and members of SMVA.
Although never having served herself, SU SMVA President Rose Scott feels that she can relate to student vets in a way that others may not be able to.
Given that Scott’s parents both served in the Air Force, Scott spent the majority of her life growing up on military bases and living and breathing the military lifestyle.
“It really is challenging. It’s not an easy part of life — I've watched so many things happen living on a base, you know. I’ve seen parents deployed,” Scott said as tears welled in her eyes. “I’ve gone through nuclear threats, bomb threats — like, it’s really even as a kid, you go through it as well.”
Scott went on to highlight the challenges that come with being a student vet, placing an emphasis on the difficulty veterans face in making connections with other students given the differences in age, life experience and priorities.
One of the main goals of SMVA at SU is to make the transition into campus life easier for veterans in various aspects of life — ranging from social life to balancing classes and everything in between.
“SMVA is basically a club for student veterans on campus to bring them together because, you know, it’s challenging to find friends coming out of the military,” Scott said. “They also tend to be most of the older students, so they’re not the same age as most of us coming to SU.”
SU senior Caleb Mayers, 30, knows this struggle firsthand, for he served six years as a weathercaster within the Air Force and spent six months in Afghanistan on a deployment.
Mayers shared that he is extremely excited for this opportunity for a new space dedicated to SMVA and feels that it would definitely aid in the transition process for many student veterans.
“It can be a little bit disorienting when you get out of the military and come back into a college environment,” Mayers said. “Especially given the environment you’ve been in before, and the age gap in some cases. So, having a place that’s specifically for veterans who share that kind of common experience could be really amazing.”
SU’s Veterans and Special Populations Coordinator Shannon Hardester is responsible for keeping up with the veterans at SU and helping them with the difficult transition from wartime to school time.
Hardester has high hopes that the student veterans will make great use of the space.
Elaborating on this idea, Hardester explained she feels that the space will be extremely beneficial to the veterans in giving them a stronger sense of belonging at SU.
“I think it will beneficial to them because a lot of them are a little bit older ... and they get a little anxious going into other spaces like, say, Hungry Minds where there’s, like, a ton of people,” Hardester said. “So, it’ll be nice for them to have a space to go where it’ll be quiet and where they can meet other vets like them.”
Members of SU's SMVA take in the organization's new lounge for the first time while brainstorming ideas for how they will re-vamp the space. Photo by Caroline Streett images.
Following the revamping and re-purposing of Blackwell Hall in fall semester of 2018, Scott received word that a room being dedicated to SMVA was a strong possibility.
According to Scott, a designated space for the club has been a large goal and something that SU veterans have wanted for a while now.
“Some time last semester, we were told that no other clubs were really jumping at the chance to use the space, so they just kind of gave it to us, which was really nice,” Scott said.
Scott revealed that while the space seemed to come easily without the need to “jump through hoops” to get it, it was definitely something that the club felt it needed and had waited a while for.
The new space, dedicated to any SU veteran as well as all members of SMVA, is located in Room 207 of Blackwell, and Scott invites all SU Veterans to check it out for the first time Sept. 26 at 1 p.m.
Executive members of SMVA are currently in the planning process of decorating and revamping the space, but they hope to have it personalized and ready by early October.
Scott hopes to make the space a comfortable “home-away-from-home" for the student veterans.
“In my head just something comfortable, something for the vets, like maybe some resources and pamphlets, computers,” Scott said. “We were thinking also, like, a TV, and an old Xbox — just something so that [the veterans] can connect with each other and feel comfortable.”
For more information on SU’s chapter of SMVA, contact Scott or attend a meeting. Meetings are held Monday from 5 to 6 p.m. in Perdue Hall Room 350.
By CAROLINE STREETT
Gull Life editor
Featured photo by Caroline Streett images.