Veterans Support Center

| October 26, 2015

Northwestern Creates New Veterans Support Center

Vet Center Main

Student veterans will have a new center on campus, thanks to the Home Depot Foundation and the Student Veterans of America.

The center will be a place for students who are veterans, members of the military community and supporters of veterans to relax, study, sign up for resources and find support. It will be a proud addition to campus this coming Veterans Day.

Northwestern Health Sciences University’s Students Serving Veterans (SSV) club is set to unveil a new Veterans Support Center, or VetCenter, Nov. 11 in conjunction with the holiday, thanks to a more than $6,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation.

Student Veterans of America announced the 2015 Vet Center Initiative Grant recipients July 30, in which the Home Depot Foundation awarded 50 student veteran-led chapters around the country with funding to build, renovate or improve their on-campus veterans’ resource center space. Northwestern Health Sciences University was one of the award winners creating a new resource center for veterans. The Home Depot Foundation awarded a total of $400,000 in grants to college campuses nationwide.

“It goes to show that Northwestern is very supportive of our veterans to provide a veteran-friendly place for students and patients,” said Angela Thomsen, president of Northwestern’s Students Serving Veterans. Thomsen is a current chiropractic student and a veteran. “We want it to be a place for veterans and their families to hang out, take a break, study or find information they need on benefits or other veterans-related issues. I think it’s really important. Veterans are a minority who go through a lot that other people don’t understand. It's a place where they can feel comfortable sharing their stories with fellow veterans who understand what they've been through.”

The Veterans Support Center will add a sense of pride and spread awareness on campus, Thomsen added.

“When veterans are deployed, they go away from loved ones, they go through combat situations and coming back to civilian life is hard to adjust to―from being on high alert to a normal day in school,” Thomsen explained. She was deployed in Iraq in 2009 serving in the National Guard as a medic for 11 years, and has been a Northwestern student since 2014.

Thomsen and vice president of Students Serving Veterans, Josh Schreiner, who is also a Northwestern chiropractic student and veteran, applied for the grant in April and recently received the award. The bulk of the grant will be used to furnish the VetCenter with tables, chairs, couches, bookshelves and electronic devices.

“The area will be designed to provide a calm and secure environment for veterans and their immediate family members to relax and find specific information related to veterans,” Thomsen and Schreiner wrote in the grant application.

The center is planned to be located in the lower level of the Wolfe-Harris Center for Excellence, between the Standard Process Healing Garden and overlooking the Northwestern pond. The location is in the immediate vicinity of the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Alumni, Development and Career Services, and the Greenawalt Library is located directly above the future location.

“Having a Veterans Center located closely to key campus offices helps veterans by allowing them to get involved and quickly find resources,” Thomsen and Schreiner wrote in the grant application.

According to Student Veterans of America and the American Council on Education, resource centers show a direct contribution to student veterans’ academic success.

“As thousands of military veterans return to college campuses this fall, eager to re-integrate into society and jump-start their college education, the promise of a dedicated space that they can call home on campus is important,” said D. Wayne Robinson, Student Veterans of America president and CEO. “Veterans centers are critical to helping to empower veterans on campus.”

The competitive application and review process for Vet Center Initiative grants shows the strength of Northwestern’s commitment to veterans in becoming one of the award winners.

Although the space provides a functional resource center for student veterans, it means more than that, Schreiner said.

“It’s a safe place on campus where current and future veterans can go to relax and get away from a busy academic atmosphere,” he explained. “It’s spot where they can communicate with others who come from a similar background. Currently there isn’t really an area on campus where student veterans can go and have a conversation without wondering if they are going to confuse or offend someone who happens to overhear.”

The center also provides a place where upper level students can provide advice to lower level students on ways to stay organized and handle the transition into higher education programs, he added.

“It just makes it easier for veterans today, with being in such a rigorous and highly demanding academic program, to find support for success,” Schreiner said. “We’re excited to move forward with it.”

James McCloden, chair of Northwestern’s Veterans Task Force and senior admissions counselor will serve as the director for the center, working closely with Student Veterans of America to establish guidelines and policy. McCloden is also a veteran who served in the army as a psychological operations specialist. His responsibilities included the development and dissemination of information to assist in capturing prisoners of war.

McCloden got Northwestern approved as a Yellow Ribbon School, created a veteran scholarship, initiated the military leave of absence policy, launched the Wall of Honor and organizes the Feed ‘Em and Treat ‘Em events.

“His passion and vision for providing support for military students at the University is evident in the work he has done to help create a military-friendly campus,” said Dr. Chris Cassirer, president and CEO of Northwestern Health Sciences University.

McCloden sees the VetCenter space as integral to the Northwestern community in an effort to support veterans, members of the military community and family members of veterans, while also making it functional where students can sign up for support, find help for financing their education and discover tools to help them along their academic journey.

“Veterans just want a place to go and study and relax with people who understand what they are going through, and what they have gone through, without having to explain themselves,” McCloden said.

Northwestern Health Sciences University also supports veterans through the Northwestern Military Scholarship that offers a 20 percent tuition discount. The Yellow Ribbon Program offers additional funds from Northwestern and the Veterans Administration to cover 100 percent of out-of-pocket tuition costs for qualified veterans.

The Northwestern campus community established the official Veteran’s and Active Military Program on campus in January to include several initiatives as part of the renewed commitment to support military and veteran student and alumni populations.

“This new initiative will provide an array of support services for our military and veteran students and enhance their ability to achieve personal and academic success,” said Dr. Cassirer in his announcement earlier this year.

As the grant is used in the coming months to purchase necessities for the campus VetCenter, student veterans, alumni and their families are excited to see the positive addition.

“It feels great to have the recognition and support of the Northwestern community,” Thomsen said. “The lounge is going to be great for veterans and it’s one way for the school to show a lot of support for them."

On September 28th, the Minneapolis StarTribune also published a story about Northwestern’s new VetCenter.

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