Veterans center undergoes revamp

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Veterans center undergoes revamp

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by Steven Buriek, Contributor

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San Diego State’s Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center has been revamped and moved to better tend to the need of 3,200 student veterans, as well as those on active duty, reservists and dependents on campus.

The center has grown to nearly 4,000 square feet, about three times the size of its previous space. The relocation has allowed the center to bring every facet of the military and veterans program into one all-encompassing location.

The additional space provides the center’s bunker, a lounge for all military affiliates to study, congregate or relax in between classes. The Ambassador Hostler Conference Room also grew bigger to accompany more military students with more meeting space for school-related projects.

“In comparison to the last veterans center I was associated with, this one has stepped up it’s game,” philosophy junior and U.S. Marines veteran Ana Phillips said. “It’s a single hub instead of separate locations. Recreation and paperwork is all done in the same place.”

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Todd Kennedy, veterans coordinator and retired first sergeant in the U.S. Marines, said military students differ from traditional students due to their unique backgrounds.

“There (are) different experiences that we bring to the table, so it’s a little bit more challenging to make that assimilation into a college campus,” he said. “Whether you’re 18 years old or 40 years old, military affiliated students have a different background experiences that you’re dealing with. What we do is we find an easier transition for that student.”

Kennedy also said program growth is the most important goal for the center.

It offers help from certifiers for Veterans Affairs benefits, trooped engineer coordinators and veteran employment specialists. It also brings on deck military liaison officers to the center’s new and improved space. Additionally, the center has a partnership with the College of Extended Studies, which has its own veterans program.

Years ago, the Veterans Center started as a walk-up window in the registrar’s office with one person handling all certifications for VA educational benefits. Since its humble beginning, the center has relocated various times to handle the surge of military students returning to school after the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the summer of 2014, Sandra Cook, associated vice president for current enrollment management, offered a larger, more adept location for the center. Currently, the center’s headquarters are located in Student Services West suite, a move finalized on May 18 of this year.

SDSU has led the way on a number of military and veteran support initiatives, pioneered as the first veterans support location in the Cal State system.

It is also the first campus in the nation to establish a space away from a resource center for military students to congregate. Called the Student Veterans House, the space is an extension of the bunker on campus, located on the corner of 55th Street and Hardy Avenue. It resembles a giant living room, not to be mistaken as a barracks or a dormitory.

Military students go through an adaptive period moving from one culture to another, and in addition to the other services offered through the Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center, the veteran’s house eases their assimilation onto campus.

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