The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN’s new Veterans Resource Center set to open Wednesday Sept. 12

A year after its approval last August, CSUN’s Veterans Resource Center is set to have its opening ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 12.

The center, which was approved by the University Student Union Board of Directors and paid for by students’ campus quality fee, provides additional resources and support for a growing segment of CSUN’s student population.

“It speaks highly to CSUN that this is a student-initiated program,” said Monteigne Staats Long, coordinator for the Veterans Resource Center. “Students are funding it through fees, students are running the center, they’re supporting and backing the center so it just really speaks to the need being fulfilled and students recognizing that.”

The opening of the VRC comes at a time when colleges and universities nationwide are increasing the resources available to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. California is known to have the largest veteran population in the country with two million overall and an estimated 30,000 returning from deployment annually, according to a California State Assembly Democratic Caucus.

CSUN’s Veterans Affairs Office estimates that around 600 veterans will be attending this fall, an increase of about 150 students since last year. These numbers indicate that CSUN has a larger veteran population than averages indicated in a 2012 report by the American Council on Education, whereas participating schools averaged 370 veterans.

According to Long, the VRC’s goal is to assist veterans in transitioning from service to student, including increasing awareness and education on campus, providing outreach and support for both active-duty soldiers and veterans, and serving as a point of contact for other services such as financial aid, counseling and suicide prevention.

Long’s first husband was killed in Afghanistan and she credits her return to graduate school as a veteran dependent as her motivation behind serving student veterans.

“Our center is based on a student’s identity and wanting to find people who have similar or shared experiences,” said Long.

Ian Smith, a military veteran who serves as a veteran peer mentor at the center, noted that a lack of a VRC may be the reason why the center only had one participant last semester and why student groups like the Student Veteran Organization have a lack of exposure on campus.

“We’re hopefully going to refine it and get feedback and try to do better as we move forward and actually start getting veterans to come in,” Smith said. “But on a support level – and readiness and willingness level – I think we’re doing everything we can right now.”

Smith calls the services provided by the VRC “huge,” especially in light of the expansive reports and media coverage of rising suicide rates and trauma-related afflictions such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. New Pentagon figures show that suicides now average one per day amongst U.S. military members.

The California Senate recently passed Bill 2133, the Combat to College Act, to extend priority enrollment for honorably discharged veterans for up to 15 years. The bill, however, would not affect veterans at CSUN because the school already provides priority enrollment to veterans throughout their tenure at the school.

A 2011 report by the Patt Tillman Foundation indicated that veterans with university support services had higher average GPAs and retention rates than their traditional counterparts.

“[Veterans] have previous life experience and they treat their education very similar to a mission they would’ve had in the military,” Long said. “They’re here for a reason: they get through school, they do well, and they graduate.”

Despite having its opening ceremony in September, the VRC opened its doors at the start of the fall semester.

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