Veterans hope new center boosts campus military community

Visitors enjoy refreshments at the grand opening of the Veteran’s Resource Center. Organizers hope the center will provide a common meeting place for St. Thomas veterans. (MacKenzie Bailey/ TommieMedia)

The new Veterans Resource Center opened Nov. 10 in the lower level of Murray-Herrick.

The center aims to provide a place for veterans to come in and do their homework, connect with other veterans and hang out. It has a kitchen, meeting room and computers.

“The resource center is a central location where we can field their (veterans’) questions and support their success while they are here,” said Norman Ferguson, Veteran Resource Center director. “We offer student veterans and any military-affiliated student the resources they need to succeed.”

Before this center, there wasn’t any central location for veterans to have access to resources they needed or a place for them all to connect. The resource center provides that space for connections once lost after the military to be found again, Ferguson noted.

Universities held a survey regarding what schools can do to adjust to the needs of veterans, Ferguson explained.“Overwhelmingly, the number one was a one-stop shop, a central location… that’s what we have provided,” he said.

Veterans now have a common meeting place to connect, which has made their community seem much stronger.

“When I started, I thought I was maybe one of a dozen veterans on campus,” St. Thomas Veteran’s Association club president, senior Peter Watson, said. “When in fact there are 200.”

The center will host all of the St. Thomas Veteran’s Association’s club meetings. Ferguson hopes to have military guests come in and speak with St. Thomas’ veterans at the center.

“It brings everyone together. When you leave the military a lot of times, you go down dark paths,” Watson said. “So one of the best ways to mitigate that is to reconnect with veterans who have gone through similar experiences as you.”

The hard work of the Veteran’s Association club, faculty and donors all brought the center together quickly. This, happening just in time to be opened to the public the day before Veteran’s Day.

“Every veteran should or will know in the near future that this is here,” St. Thomas Veteran’s Association club vice-president, junior Kyle Loftus, said. “It will definitely draw people into the veteran community.”

St. Thomas is in the process of trying to be the most military-friendly campus in the Midwest, Ferguson noted. The center provides the camaraderie many veterans had in the military and brings it to campus, Watson explained.

“These centers are becoming more and more prevalent at community colleges, colleges, universities,” Ferguson said. “They’re here, they meet that need and this is a huge step toward achieving that goal.”

MacKenzie Bailey can be reached at bail7757@stthomas.edu.

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