Dean reveals plans for new student veteran center on campus

Whitt Van Tassell

Georgia Southern University will open a new Military Veterans and Student Center (MVSC) late this summer to capitalize on the assets student veterans bring to campus.

The MVSC will be an overhaul of the old Military Resource Center, previously located in the Nessmith-Lane Conference Center. While a new permanent home has yet to be specified beyond “a more centralized location.” The MVSC will be opening by fall at the latest, according to Dean Joel Wright, J.D., the newly appointed Associate Dean of Students for Military Affairs, who will serve as the director of the MVSC.

Wright attended GSU as an undergraduate while serving in the Marine Corps Reserves. After graduation, his unit was deployed in support of operations Iraq and Enduring Freedom before Wright entered law school at Michigan State as a commissioned officer in the Marines. Wright feels that these experiences have uniquely positioned him to be an effective advocate for student-veterans on our campus.

GSU is home to over 700 student veterans, most of whom are non-traditional students with credits transferring in, who take advantage of scholarships through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The MVSC seeks to assist with these and other unique needs of student-veterans.

Former US Army combat medic, Sgt. Roderick Favors, junior accounting major, feels like the sense of community the center will build is going to be very beneficial.

“When you don’t feel alone, in any situation, you tend to do better,” Favors said. “It helped when I ran into another soldier who said ‘I’m taking accounting too, we can study together.’ I feel my experiences would be multiplied with the Student Veterans Center.”

Wright envisions the MVSC as a “triage center,” where they might not have a financial aid counselor or mental health expert on site, but where student veterans can come regardless of their issue or concern.

“We’ll be able to put them in contact with exactly who they need to see. We want to be that . . . access point for them to get where they need to go on campus,” Wright said.

The MVSC will serve as more than just a direction booth however, it will feature a mentoring program for upcoming student veterans to help them learn the ropes from upperclassmen, in addition to tutoring, lounge spaces, and a partnership with Career Services to aid with professional development, according to Wright.

Wright hopes student-veterans will also get involved in other student organizations, and lend their life experiences and refined leadership skills to groups across the campus.

“There’s an underlying perception, especially of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that are coming back now, that they’ve somehow all got issues, they’ve got to be fixed because of what they’ve seen overseas,” Wright said. “We’re trying to change that paradigm to looking at veterans and seeing the strengths and the positives that they bring to the campus.”

Stressing the tremendous amount of support GSU is giving him, “I can assure you that regarding military and veteran student support, the university is dedicated to being a leader in that arena,” Wright said.

Underscoring Wright’s praise, Favors said, “I feel like everyday I’m on this campus, no exaggeration . . . that the entire place is just one big ‘thank you for your service.'”