University of Mississippi student veterans and military-connected students have better access to the specialized services they require than ever before with the opening of the new Veteran and Military Services office in the George Street House.
Student veterans, such as Angela Roberts, a Marine veteran and biology major from Dallas, have a one-stop shop for accessing their benefits, seeking academic support, studying and simply socializing with other student veterans. Previously, Ole Miss students had to visit separate offices on different sides of campus to receive the benefits offered to them as veterans.
Roberts said it’s been crucial having access to administrators who have been in her shoes and peers who are also trying to reintegrate into civilian life while adjusting to life on campus.
“When you leave the military, you don’t always know how to start the process,” she said. “You’re trying to integrate into society, trying to be a civilian, and have to shift your mindset.
“Having these services helped me find some normalcy and feel like it’s not over just because I left the military. This is a new chapter and I have to make it work, but having these resources – and having Stelenna (Lloyd, operations coordinator for VMS) and Andrew (Newby, assistant director of VMS) – helps. I don’t know where I would be right now without them.”
The new space, nestled near the Lyceum and the J.D. Williams Library, isn’t just logistically convenient. With a few upgrades, lots of paint and some new furniture, it serves as a respite for students.
Newby said he’s most excited about having a central place for student veterans to be able to go, to study in a quiet place where they know space is always available for them, or even just to get a snack. Also, having the VMS office and the Veterans Resource Center in such a central and visible location on campus shows a commitment from leadership to take care of student veterans, he said.
“We can now fully serve, in one location, all the needs of a student veteran,” Newby said. “They can study, print for free, relax, get food, schedule doctors’ appointments, get their VA disabilities handled, apply for survivor’s benefits, get a home loan, get insurance, take care of the administrative side of their education – they can do anything here but sleep.”
Before, a student veteran who wanted to visit both the VMS office and the Veterans Resource Center couldn’t do it on a short break between classes. Now, student veterans, whether young or nontraditional, disabled or simply busy, have ADA-compliant access to all the services and support they need in one place.
The full kitchen, which was provided through a Home Depot grant, also will serve as a satellite location for the Grove Grocery, the university’s student-operated food pantry.
The building previously housed offices for the School of Applied Sciences. Before moving in, Newby and his team fully renovated the building with help from the Facilities Management Department and the Office of the Provost.
Extra money needed for paint and new furniture was raised through the sale of special “Welcome Home” vanity license plates organized through the Student Veterans Association, Newby said.
By JB Clark