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Mizzou celebrates updated and expanded MU Veterans Center

Student veterans enjoy more space to socialize, study and receive support as they transition from the military to academia

May 10, 2019

Story Contact(s):
Sara Diedrich, DiedrichS@missouri.edu

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Student veterans at the University of Missouri have more room than ever before to connect with each other and access support in an environment designed to help them transition from the military to academia.

The MU Veterans Center — a one-stop resource to help student veterans navigate the college environment — celebrated the grand opening today of its updated and expanded space in the lower level of the Memorial Union. The 1,702-square-foot center now has a business office as well as space for student veterans to socialize, study and meet the needs of the Mizzou Student Veterans Association. The new addition, which measures 961 square feet, can accommodate up to 40 students, depending on the set up.

“Committing to student success as an institution means we value the spaces and environments that enable our students to learn and feel welcome on campus,” Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said. “As a campus steeped in military tradition, we are thrilled to continue to underscore our commitment to helping our student veterans be successful at MU.”

Kyle Smith, president of the student veterans group, said it’s important for student veterans to have a place to call their own.

“It is a place where we can seek guidance, comfort and camaraderie,” he said. “The transition from military to student can be a difficult adjustment. Having a space with individuals who have gone or are going through situations similar to your own, creates a network of support throughout one’s collegiate career.”

The $150,000 expansion project was made possible, in part, by an anonymous donation in honor of Gary L. Turner, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War who has spent more than 30 years helping fellow veterans adjust to civilian life. Turner, 72, was instrumental in opening a veterans center in Springfield, Missouri, in the early 1980s.

“I really appreciate what you are doing at Mizzou,” Turner said. “The reality is when you’re in combat, it changes your life. The camaraderie and fellowship that a center offers is enormous for veterans.”

Robert Ross, director of the MU Veterans Center and a retired U.S. Marine, said building healthy and meaningful relationships is an important facet of student success, and one especially important to student veterans.

“The Veterans Center offers a safe environment where student veterans connect with other student veterans who have similar experiences in the military, transitioning to postsecondary work, and the challenges student veterans face in making sense of the academic world,” he said. “I believe association with similarly positioned students enhances the sense of belonging. I have heard from several student veterans that finding the Veterans Center played a key role in their decisions to remain at Mizzou.”

Ross said when he first became director, student veterans had to share a smaller space with the business operations of his office, which includes certifying GI Bill benefits.

“So often, they had to speak in hushed tones or move their conversations to another space,” said Ross, who joined the Veterans Center in 2015. “The expansion provides dedicated space that has more separation from the business operation.”

MU was recently designated a Purple Heart University in recognition of the university’s support of military members, including veterans and their families. Nearly 900 MU students are either veterans, active duty personnel, National Guard members, reservists, ROTC cadets or family members receiving GI Bill benefits. The MU Veterans Center has been serving students, faculty and staff since 2007, when it blazed a new trail as one of just three veterans centers in the nation.

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