The AU community showed support for a Veterans Resource Center through a petition during this year’s Yellow Ribbon Week.
The Center would support and advocate for student veterans dealing with administrative affairs at AU and with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The proposal is based on a five-year plan, but the Center could be established “by the end of the next school year, although that is being very optimistic,” according to AU Vets President Roger Deming, a senior in the School of Public Affairs.
The proposal is based off of programs at 23 other universities, including George Mason University and George Washington University.
“It’s really no question, looking at the schools statistically, that what gets put into a VRC gets a tremendous return on it, in terms of bettering student veterans’ lives, bettering the student communities,” Deming said.
Patricia Leslie, director of the Student Government Department of Military Affairs said the Center is different from most resource centers on campus because it creates a safe space while serving an administrative role.
Graduation rates and GPAs of student veterans will improve with the presence of a Veteran’s Center, according to a study released by The Pat Tillman Foundation in 2011.
Deming, Leslie and Katherine Gale, former director of the Department of Military Affairs, began writing a proposal for a Veterans Resource Center last summer.
AU Vets created Yellow Ribbon Week last year as an initiative during the spring semester to increase “pure awareness of the group,” Deming said.
AU Vets gauged student interest in creating the Center this year by putting together social events, like a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket.”
Deming said a VRC would play a crucial institutional role.
“For veterans, if our paperwork is messed up, we get monumentally screwed,” Deming said.
AU hired Valerie Verra as a full-time staffer at AU Central to focus solely on processing all of the paperwork this semester due to the large and growing presence of student veterans on campus.
The Center would also provide additional help to veterans awaiting certification for their educational benefits and qualification for health benefits.
Student Government gathered signatures for petition supporting the creation of a Veterans Resource Center.
SG called for a Veterans Resource Center in the April 1 meeting, The Eagle previously reported.
In addition to the petition for a Veterans Resource Center, Deming and Leslie drafted a letter of support encouraging professors to sign or to write their own letters of support.
“I think professors in a lot of ways are the best for speaking to the advantage of having veterans in the classroom and they maybe understand that the Center would be a really great thing for their students to have,” Leslie said.
The petition has gained a lot of support from the student body.
“I’ve definitely seen a lot of student support for the Veterans Resource Center,” Deming said. “It’s all about asking for a student’s signature and explaining to them why there’s a need for a resource center. I have yet to meet a student that will say ‘no, I don’t support this.’”
Nicole Cutuli, a freshman in School of International Service, is one of the many civilian members of AU Vets. She became involved in the group after attending an on-campus screening of the documentary “Hell and Back Again.”
“I definitely think the VRC is needed for a group that is so underrepresented at AU,” Cutuli said.