Jason Kander at UMSL

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander talks with UMSL student-veterans Wednesday in the university’s Millennium Student Center. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander visited with student-veterans at the University of Missouri–St. Louis on Wednesday.

Kander, 31, of Kansas City, is a former U.S. Army captain who served as a military intelligence officer in Afghanistan. From 2009 to 2013, he was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, where his work focused on campaign reform and ethics reform.

He encouraged UMSL student-veterans to take action in their careers and lives.

“I think, certainly, in the mostly peaceful politics under which we operate, we should muster the courage to do what’s right and not just do what’s easy,” he said. “Particularly for those of us who are veterans, I think it is what is expected of our generation, and it’s how we’re going to help our country and our communities moving forward.”

Kander met with the students, as well as faculty and staff members, in the Millennium Student Center. He fielded questions there and went on to tour the Student Veterans Center.

Housed on the second floor of Clark Hall, the Student Veterans Center opened in December. The renovated space includes the university’s ROTC office, a gathering area, benefit forms and other information. Kander said veterans, like all professionals who change from one occupation to another, need help with career transition.

“That’s why the veterans center for students is so important – making sure people have access to education that can help them use their skills,” he said. “But the other piece of it is making sure employers understand that [military service] is not a dark spot on a resume that they skim past. It’s something that they need to work hard to understand – what those bullet points on a [veteran’s] resume mean and how [those points] apply to an employer’s business.”

Jim Vanderbeck was one of the student-veterans who attended Kander’s talk and toured the center with him. Vanderbeck, 47, is a senior majoring in history at UMSL. He works full time in the Department of Public Works for the city of Creve Coeur, Mo., and served for nearly 21 years in the U.S. Army. He said the center has helped student-veterans build a community at UMSL.

“It’s having that space where you can go and have a cup a coffee,” Vanderbeck said. “If you’re having a bad day, the center is a place to go. If you need to know about medical issues or ask questions about getting paperwork filled out or veterans’ benefits, it’s a place to go. Before, there was no place to go to ask questions.”

The center is located in 211 Clark Hall and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. Call 314-516-5705 or visit umsl.edu/veterans for more information.

Tom Hockett

Tom Hockett