“Military Friendly. Four Years in a Row.”
With a statement like that stamped onto Georgia Southern University’s website, it’s clear that GSU takes great pride in the reputation it has gained as one of the most military friendly campuses in the nation.
That pride is crystal clear in organizations like the Student Veterans Association, who not only advocate for student veterans and their families but also work to build a bridge between veterans from all military branches and civilian students.
“As veterans, it’s kind of difficult to reintegrate into normal society, let alone college,” Justin Williams, SVA president, said. “As non-traditional students, we have backgrounds that a lot of people don’t have.”
Because of this difference between the military and civilian student population, the SVA’s main goal is to help veterans with their transition into student life. The process can be difficult, especially given that many service members who return to college are older and often bring families along with them.
“We don’t go from high school to college so it’s harder for us to get into that learning curve,” Kortney Gross, secretary of SVA, said. “Especially for some who, say, have PTSD, and a lot of people think we’re scary or unapproachable, but we’re people too.”
Fear isn’t the only emotion that plays a part in the reintegration process. Isolation is something many veterans may face, veterans like SVA’s own president.
“When I got to Georgia Southern, I don’t think I spoke a word for the first two months I was here,” Williams said. “I felt out of place and it took awhile because the environment on campus is – it’s interesting. The SVA back then actually brought me in with open arms and was like ‘Hey, don’t be afraid to talk to people. We’re all just people.’”
It’s that same message that Williams received that he hopes other veterans and servicemen and women can take away from the SVA.
In addition to its efforts to create a community-feel for student veterans, the SVA also connects them with resources available both on and off campus. The SVA has partnered with several military friendly organizations, like the American Legion and the Cadet Association, to host events and raise awareness to military issues.
As part of their education advocacy, the SVA offers the Wounded Eagle scholarship that is available to any eligible veteran who has been injured at war. While the organization is still young, Williams and Gross are both positive about its capabilities.
“We’re still trying to get that foothold, but the SVA has grown. It has done so much more than in the first year it was established. Once we do have that foothold, advocacy is of huge importance to us,”Williams said.
President: Justin Williams
Contact: Facebook, Twitter, MyInvolvement
*Upcoming Meeting: Oct. 28, RU 2073 @ 5:30 p.m.
*Food and refreshments will be served.