In the beginning…
Originally called the Student Veterans Club, created Post-Vietnam as service members returned to college after serving in the armed services, so that they could band together for camaraderie and support. With the unpopularity of the war in the sixties, veterans were not particularly welcomed on campuses across the United States. These members connected at Wayne State University over meals and drinks to share experiences and build networks. Although most of the original members graduated in the late sixties and seventies, they still gather to this day to meet, reconnect and share old and new memories.
Another Student Veterans Club was started at Wayne State as new veterans were returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. While no longer facing rallies and anti-war demonstrations, these veterans still felt the need to connect and collaborate. As non-traditional students attending a commuter college, it was especially hard to meet and keep friends when the average veteran student is at least five to ten years older than the traditional eighteen year old student.
The current Student Veterans Organization (SVO) was born in 2008 when the group was reorganized to address the new challenges that veteran students are facing on college campuses across the nation. With a low average graduation rate, the organization founder Patrick Hannah, a social work student veteran, dreamed of an organization that would address the specific needs of a new wave of student veterans who were bringing new issues and challenges to campus with them from the battlefield.
New programs that reflected military culture were created to meet the needs of these new students. The peer to peer mentoring program is not anything new, but with veteran students it reminded them of knowing the man in front of and behind you, and looking out for each other. The mentoring program was designed to help not only with traditional colligate issues, but also with struggles associated with reintegration, mental health, and navigating a campus that generally has the mindset of every man for himself. The Battle Buddy program was designed by veteran students as a way of having support systems that committed veterans to each other, as in veteran to veteran looking out for your buddy. Tutoring services that were specifically designed to be run by veterans for veterans allowed our students an opportunity to volunteer to help their peers. Connections were made and relationships built with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), to encourage veteran students with mental health issues, to seek help and reassurance that they were not alone.
The Student Veterans Resource Center (SVRC) was an idea that was born from the separation that nontraditional student veterans were facing. Having a safe haven to connect with other individuals who had shared experiences, as well as a platform to launch new and innovative support services, the SVRC quickly became a hub for providing both services and support. Recognizing the efforts of the student veterans and the successes they were enjoying through this grass roots learning community, Wayne State University’s leadership charged a committee in 2012 to reassess veteran’s needs on campus and provide further services to this deserving population. The creation of the Office of Military and Veterans Academic Excellence (OMVAE) was created and full-time positions were staffed to meet the growing needs and numbers of veterans on campus.
Today, Wayne State University provides a haven for veterans who have honorably served their country and are now seeking to use the benefits that they earned to further their education The SVO is recognized as the most active student organization on campus, and was recently awarded the City of Detroit Community Service award for their efforts in the surrounding community. These efforts as well as the increasing graduation rates of our veterans have set Wayne State above other colleges in the region, and across the nation.The SVO’s mission of providing supportive services to their members as well as the community both on and off campus continues to grow and adapt to the ever changing needs of our veteran population. Recognizing that veteran students today are the leaders of tomorrow, Wayne State University has encouraged and supported the organization to grow and engage both students and the community.
La Ren Gordy
VP of Finance
VP of Camaraderie