SIUE veterans and military service members will soon have access to a dedicated lounge when the Military and Veteran Resource Center opens up on the second floor of the MUC sometime this fall.
Currently, SIUE's only dedicated service center for veterans and military members is a small booth in Rendleman Hall.
The new center will be established where Event Services is located now, while Event Services will move into The Alestle's current space, and The Alestle will move to the lower level of the MUC.
The location will include a lounge space for veterans and service members to relax, computers and Common Access Card readers. A Common Access Card is the identification card service members carry that give them special benefits.
President of Student Veterans of America, junior economics major Nathan Peery, of Highland, Illinois, said SIUE is lacking in services compared to other campuses.
“[Student Veterans of America’s] other schools [in California] have 600, 500, 300 veterans, and they have huge veteran buildings,” Peery said. “So, for us to say we’re at over 700 veterans and we don’t have a veteran center – that’s kind of unheard of.”
The center will help to consolidate different educational and financial needs for veterans, like parking, advising and admission, as well as applying for and using their Illinois Veteran’s Grant, GI Bill and tuition assistance. Kevin Wathen, director of Military and Veteran Services at SIUE, said these topics can pose issues for veterans.
“You can imagine the added difficulty that veterans have to go through, and we’re just talking paperwork wise,” Wathen said.
The center will also aim to help veterans mentally and socially. Along with the lounge area, they are planning to offer therapy for those with depression, anxiety and PTSD, and they want to promote connectivity and socialness between veterans. Peery said this is important because veterans often stand out from their peers.
“They’re coming in, and he or she doesn’t fit in well with their 18 or 19-year-old peers that have absolutely no life experience … so they just automatically segregate themselves,” Peery said.
The current Veteran’s Services is a small booth in the Student Services Center in Rendleman Hall that is usually staffed by student veterans. Because of how small they are, they’re only able to meet with a few veterans and service members each day.
A worker at the booth, freshman history major Matthew Hanks, of St. Louis, said he’s excited to socialize at the new center.
“It’s going to pretty much be a new home for veterans. When I started here before I started working at the veteran’s service, this was the only place I would go to. I would just sit outside [the booth],” Hanks said.
Another worker at the booth, junior computer management and information systems major Jacob Vignone, of Jacksonville, Illinois, said the new center will help the Student Veterans for America.
“Our chapter will be able to base themselves out of there to get their information out and help people out and recruit people as well,” Vignone said.
Service members and veterans can check out the center when it opens this fall, but for now they can go to the Veteran Services booth in Rendleman Hall room 1207 for any of their needs.