Northeast State unveiled its new center for student veterans on this Veterans Day – a space all their own to recline, relax, and be comfortable in the company of other vets.
The center is a long-time wish come true for Pat Chandler, Northeast State’s coordinator for Veteran Affairs, who has worked with veterans since she started with the College in 1968.
“I just feel like they are a special population and they deserve this,” Chandler said. “I think it will make the transition from the military to college easier. I want them to feel welcome and safe here, and part of the academic community – part of something just like they were in the military.”
The center is located in the Student Services Building on the Blountville campus. The room – aided by donations from Grand Home Furnishings and Schewel’s Furniture – sports two sofas, a recliner, two study carrels, computers, and academic and community resource materials.
Special touches include new flooring, flags from all military branches, and an American flag flown in Iraq. Soon, a flag flown over the national capitol on Veterans Day will adorn the room. The center also has multimedia equipment for hosting presentations.
Chandler envisions the center having hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and staffed by veterans who are also Federal VA Work-Study students. She said veterans may also use the room after hours by contacting Northeast State police for entry.
Chandler said the center dovetails with recent efforts by the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of Education to ensure the success of veterans in academia. The efforts strive to create a culture of trust, connectedness, and support across campuses, ensuring that faculty and staff have the resources they need to help vets succeed.
“I wanted a place for them to go to decompress and talk to other vets,” Chandler said. “It’s easier for them to talk to each other rather than civilians who don’t know what they’ve experienced.”
Chandler said other support mechanisms in the works include a survey of veterans about services they may need and having staff/faculty veterans wear insignias identifying themselves as a support network.
“I can’t say enough about the community and our own Plant Operations staff,” Chandler said. “They have just taken the idea of the center and run with it. Everyone has been so supportive about the effort.”
The center is located in Room A101 in the Student Services Building. The opening followed the College’s annual Veterans Day Celebration held today in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts.