Wright State VMC located in Allyn Hall | Photograph Marissa Couch | The Wright State Guardian
“We have a pyramid we’ve created in our space on how to reach that success. It starts with financial and goes to mental health and sense of belonging, then to academic and career, so we’re moving them through the pyramid,” said Amanda Watkins, associate director of the VMC and Undergraduate Retention.
Wright State’s Veteran and Military Center (VMC) is available on campus to provide student veterans with the assistance they may need in their transition and journey through college.
The VMC is accessible to all veteran students who utilize their G.I. Bill, as well as those who have proof of military involvement.
G.I. Bill is a Government Issue Bill, which provides benefits to assist veterans and family members, according to the Veterans Affairs webpage.
Due to the proximity of Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Watkins believes WSU offers a substantial support system for student veterans.
Watkins started in the Office of Veteran Affairs in June 2006. In 2014, the push was made to expand the space based on student feedback and petition. The office was renamed the Veteran and Military Center.
Over the past weekend, the VMC celebrated their expansion that happened five years ago with their annual veterans Champion’s Ball on Nov. 9.
“Traditionally, we just did military benefits which is an enrollment function. We expanded to three full-time staff and peer advisors as well as student workers who process G.I. bill and the Veterans’ Voices project as well,” said Watkins. “We work closely with student success services to have workshops on how to stay on track.”
The Veterans’ Voices project is a documentary produced by WSU’s New Media Incubator and the VMC.
Veterans identify themselves to the center through admission, coming to the space or using their G.I. Bill.
“Most people if you stop and ask on campus if they know someone in the armed services, they would say yes. Having that culture around the Miami Valley makes us more accepting to military culture and understanding their needs and how to best assist them,” said Watkins.
Curtis Tenney is a student veteran who utilizes the VMC. Tenney has a bachelor of Arts in Women, Gender and Sexuality and is pursuing his master’s degree in Applied Behavioral Science from WSU.
“The VMC has saved me much time by providing a secure and quiet place to study. Along with the Office of Disability Services, the VMC has had a direct impact on my ability to complete assignments and attend class. I really like the free printing and all the various activities and seminars sponsored by the VMC,” said Tenney.
Additionally, Tenney has an associate in Golf Complex Operations and Management, bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics, a master’s in Business Administration, and a Ph.D. in Economics.
“Since I was initially very overwhelmed with returning to school, I was quite the wallflower at the VMC for a while and just did my own thing. I was focused on my studies and wasn’t looking to get involved. Then I had a couple of conversations with Dr. Gordon and he started inviting me to participate and help my fellow veterans,” said Tenney.
Dr. Gordon offered Tenney an idea that would educate the center in his undergraduate studies, Women, Gender and Sexuality studies. This project turned into Curtis Talks (Because My Dad’s Name Was Ted), where Tenney informs the audience of how to approach situations in an appropriate manor. Tenney is still currently conducting these presentations for students.
“Creating and funding the VMC is a very important enrollment and retention factor for Wright State. The institution’s recognition of the contributions and sacrifices of veterans is amazing. I have been very impressed with the cooperation and coalition involving all of the cultural and identity centers,” said Tenney.
While WSU does a lot right for veterans, there is always room for improvement.
“For veterans, it is important for the university to develop a good policy that will allow for excused absences for active duty, reserve and guard members so they are not negatively affected by their responsibilities here or when they are deployed or sent for temporary duty,” said Tenney.
Tenney is an advocate for the Office of Disability Services and the VMC and would like to see more cooperation in encouraging veterans to enroll with both services.
“Since disability still carries a stigma for many veterans, a liberal attendance policy for all veterans would be quite beneficial. Veterans have unique circumstances that can easily lead to absences from class,” said Tenney. “It would be nice to see and hear of more support from faculty, staff and administrators for the VMC and individual veterans.”
WSU has offered veterans the opportunity for integration into campus life by supporting the VMC. Student veterans have a safe space to go for support and any needs they may have.
Veterans Day was on Monday, Nov. 11. WSU was closed in observance of the holiday.