By Nick Swanson
The Veterans Resource Center (VRC) is dedicated to benefit all student, faculty and staff veterans on campus. The center is located in Venable Hall room 309.
“Ideally the center will provide access to academic support, professional peer advising, computer training and other essential services to make the veterans feel welcome and promote their success,” Theresa O’Bryant, associate dean of students, said.
O’Bryant organized a team including faculty and staff from financial aid, counseling services and the center for student success and engagement to help the cause.
The ribbon cutting ceremony officially opened the center on Wednesday, April 16.
“This is a place for returning veterans to call their own,” President Mary Grant said. “Where they can support and lend ideas with each other and eventually connect more deeply with the rest of the campus.”
Student veterans have keypad access to the resource center’s new additions. Some of those include a new television donated by President Mary Grant, a large-scale detailed world map with colored magnets for veterans to share different areas they served in, a Keurig coffee maker, computers with a printer, a microwave and couches.
“It’s important for people to understand that some have a different context,” O’Bryant continues, “We are in a good position because we have a great opportunity to treat people well who have served this country.”
According to O’Bryant, there are just under two-dozen veterans that attend the College who are on financial benefits and more than 10 students who are the children of veterans on the same benefits.
“That doesn’t tell us how many veterans we have in our student population though, because some veterans don’t tell the college or use their GI Bill to go to school,” O’Bryant said, “I think it is certainly fair to say that opening up the Veterans Resource Center is not to attract, but to support students that are veterans and to help them persist in school, which helps us retain them until graduation.”
“Opening the center gives a positive view for student veterans and regular students,” student veteran Brian Nelson said. “This amount of support is outstanding and I will definitely be using the veterans’ center a lot.”
O’Bryant explained the VRC will be a place where the veterans can be together, because addressing the transition to school from the service is helpful if they do it in cohorts.
O’Bryant said although it is primarily for the veterans, they are welcome to bring in other students or friends as well, especially if it helps them with their studies.
The VRC funding primarily came from donations by the College and other community efforts; the College has not established an official budget for the center.
The Mass. state Valor Act, requires the Board of Higher Education to develop a written policy that requires public higher education institutions to develop policies regarding the granting of academic credit for a student’s prior or concurrent military occupation, training and coursework, and requires higher education institutions to designate a single point of contact for student Veterans.
In the MCLA President’s Report, O’Bryant states “MCLA has mounted a concerted effort to support veteran students.”
According to the article, the College also helps veterans with a variety of tuition benefits and waivers, including those provided through state and national programs and offers potential college credit for military training programs.
English Professor Harris Elder is working with veterans, helping them translate their military transcript into an academic one to earn credits.
O’Bryant explained that an example of life-experience credit can be if one were to have run a battalion, which is translated into managing experience.
Andrew H. Mick Jr. and his family made a contribution to aid veterans in the form of a $10,000 donation toward a scholarship program for veterans of U.S. military service.