Updated: Oct. 4, 2016 at 12:14 p.m.
GW Veterans officially have a dedicated space to study, access resources and socialize together on campus.
A year and a half after coming up with the idea for a resource center, the group will officially move into an F Street townhouse this month. This is the first time that student veterans have an on-campus community space and the center falls in line with officials’ promises to support veterans after the departure of their top administrator.
Yannick Baptiste, president of GW Veterans, said the group will start moving into the space before Alumni Weekend begins Oct. 27 and will be completely settled in the townhouse by Veterans Day.
The center will combine services that were already available to veteran students through VALOR, like a career counselor and assistance processing benefits, and the townhouse features a lounge and study space so students can have a “home away from home,” Baptiste said.
“There are a lot of students who come for the studies, and that’s it,” Baptiste said. “This will be a place for students to go in between classes because, in general, they don’t have a place to call home.”
The space for the new resource center is located next door to the Naval ROTC offices, meaning the move will place all of the University’s military services physically closer to each other than ever before. Members of the GW military community have said this will help veterans and current students form stronger bonds.
The space is currently occupied by an office from the University Teaching and Learning Center and the STEM Academy. University officials said these two offices are moving to spaces in Gelman Library to make room for the resource center.
The current tenant is the Office of Military and Veteran Affairs, known as GW VALOR, and the center will continue to share the space with the VALOR office. VALOR leaders and GW Veterans have already begun writing up an agreement to ensure the two organizations remain separate while sharing a building, because GW Veterans still falls under the jurisdiction of the Center for Student Engagement as a student organization and does not report to VALOR, Baptiste said.
“Even though we’re in their building, they can’t hold that over our heads,” Baptiste said. “They don’t hold our money. They’re not in charge of us.”
After losing their top official, veteran and military students initially shared concerns that they would not be supported by administrators. Provost Forrest Maltzman confirmed in the spring that veterans affairs would be moved into the Division of Student Affairs and said he and others would continue to prioritize the student veteran community.
There are more than 1,700 military and veteran students currently enrolled at GW, according to the GW Veterans website.
GW Veterans will soon begin fundraising by seeking out corporate and private donors and applying for grants to pay for some renovations to the new center, like new carpeting, paint and decor in time for next academic year, Baptiste said. His first renovation priority is to add an extra doorway into the lounge space. The space will give student veterans a place to relax and bond with one another, which is important for building community, Baptiste added.
“The leading indicator of student veteran success on campus is community,” Baptiste said.
Andrew Sonn, assistant dean of students, said the resource center will include a resource library for military and veteran students, office space for military and veteran student organization leaders, group and individual study spaces, a conference room and the lounge.
“GW’s military and veteran student resource center is a community-building, service and resource space intended to support the engagement and academic achievement of GW’s more than 1,800 military and veteran students,” Sonn said. “This space will be a great location to affirm GW’s commitment to military and veteran students.”
Sonn declined to comment on how much financial support the University will provide to the veteran center.
Over the past year, GW Veterans has been collecting support for the center from student organizations, various schools and administrators. The Alumni Association passed a resolution in support of the center in August, according to the GW Veterans website.
Jeff Fair, a 1997 alumnus of the Elliott School of International Affairs, a veteran and a member of the Alumni Association executive committee who spearheaded the association’s resolution, said the space still requires renovations to be up to par with “amazing” centers at other universities. The American Council on Education recommends that institutions create veteran resource centers, and more than 50 universities in the U.S. already have similar spaces.
Now that GW Veterans have a place to call home, Fair said he hopes they can remain in place and not have to move buildings again.
“We want to build ours to be one of the very best,” Fair said. “I’d like to see the University support GW Veterans with their renovation plans and then keep the Vets in this location for some time. I understand facilities management can be tricky, but it would be very disruptive to building a community if we moved the location.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the resource center would share the space with VALOR student services. It will share it with VALOR offices. We regret this error.