UMSL’s Student Veterans Center opens to overflow crowd
More than 50 proud people jammed into the new Student Veterans Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis on Dec 7. Smiling from ear to ear, the young veterans thanked administrators and each other for all the support. Hugs and a few tears came from family members.
“I’m just the guy in the suit,” said Ryan Barrett, the new director of the center and a doctoral student in political science. “Everyone else is doing the work. It’s an honor to have this position. This center will help vets get reintroduced into civilian society.”
Chancellor Tom George, who made a presentation at the University of Missouri System Board of Curators meeting earlier in the day, thanked the veterans and members of UMSL’s Army ROTC unit.
“Thank you very much,” George said. “You were outstanding and made us all very proud.”
Ronald Yasbin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who has helped shepherd creation of the center, told those gathered that UMSL has the highest percentage of student veterans than any other university in the UM System. His comment brought a big round of applause.
Jim Craig, lieutenant colonel with the Gateway Battalion U.S. Army ROTC, oversees the military science classes at UMSL. The decision was made to move the ROTC office to the new veterans center.
“I call it vets and cadets,” Craig said. “The cadets have a whole lot to learn from the men and women who have been through it.”
Standing front and center before the doors officially opened was Theresa Jones. If there is such a thing as a typical UMSL student veteran, Jones would qualify. A former aviation electronic technician in the US Navy, Jones served from 2001 to 2005. Married as a teen to a fellow sailor, she was stationed on an aircraft carrier helping to keep all of its planes flight-ready.
“We lived in Japan and it was a great experience, but we had our first son and we decided to leave,” Jones said.
Both she and her husband started college in California, her home state, and then moved to Missouri, his home state, in 2009.
“We’re both UMSL people,” she said proudly. “He earned his BSN and I earned my bachelor’s degree in accounting last summer. I’m working on my MBA now and expect to receive it in May 2013.”
For veterans like Theresa Jones, the new veterans center is a “one-stop shop” with information on everything from the GI Bill, to military service credit and help with veterans forms. Beyond the paperwork, however, a new vet will find another vet, a sympathetic someone who knows what it’s like.
The center is located in 211 Clark Hall and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 314-516-5705 or visit umsl.edu/veterans.
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