After ending his military service in 2009, sociology senior Donald Davis returned to the classroom for the first time in over a decade, but had trouble assimilating to civilian life at the University after receiving little proper guidance from University resources because of his status as a non-traditional student.
This week, the Student Veteran Center is hosting the first Veteran Welcome Week to help the approximately 640 student veterans on campus who may be in similar situations.
Ben Armstrong, former aviation electrician for the Marine Corps and current coordinator for the center, said the mission of the week and of the center itself is to connect, integrate and develop student veterans, especially individuals who leave the military and come to the University and are not sure how to fully access the resources available to them.
“We try to act as that pipeline to help them better understand the conversion,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said the events are being held to clear up certain questions and concerns student veterans have had in the past.
Davis, a former Army medic, said he had to discover what military benefits he had as a student alone because he didn’t get the help he needed from the University. He said he struggled to decipher the process disabled veterans go through to attend the University and acquire benefits through the GI Bill.
“I didn’t have peer-to-peer connection or any student advocacy that helped me go through that,” Davis said. “It took me a few semesters to get acclimated to the experience and it was extra pressure to keep up because I hadn’t been in an actual classroom in over 10 years.”
The UT Student Veteran’s Association collaborated with Veteran Welcome Week by hosting a lecture Monday by the organization’s president.
Steven Denman, history senior and former Army combat medic, transferred to the University in 2010 and is now the events coordinator for SVA. Denman said the purpose of the organization is to maintain the unity that student veterans had while in the military.
“Most veterans miss that sense of brotherhood and belonging that the military provided, so we try to replicate that at SVA,” Denman said. “A lot of what we try to do is help military students get out of their personal bubble by helping them meet new people and get involved because it’s such a large institution that it’s easy to get lost in the system.”
Denman said the Veteran Center provides useful resources that have helped him work out his plans to go to law school and it could help others looking for guidance.
Printed on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 as: Program helps student veterans adjust