Editor’s Note: This article was written by Danielle Rivera, who is also a Bruin veteran.
The start of a new fall semester at Belmont University brought an influx of new students, including a record amount of new veteran students and family members of veterans.
Over the last two years, members of the Belmont staff and student veterans have worked together to build relations between the veterans and the university. A major concern voiced by the student veterans was the lack of a dedicated space for them to gather for meetings, do homework or just hang out and get to meet one another.
A dedicated space student veterans and staff had been advocating for finally came to fruition, officially opening on Wednesday in Fidelity Hall.
It is complete with couches and lounge chairs, tables and computers, a microwave and a 65-inch television donated by Mimi Barnard, the associate provost of interdisciplinary studies and global education. There are many things coming this year for the veterans, but the center is what they are most excited about, said Leigh Hitchcock and Valerie Nichols, members of the Veterans Success Initiative.
“It’s something we’ve all wanted and it’s finally come true,” said Kim Powell, a Bruin Vets adviser.
The veteran-centered initiative is led by Barnard. Barnard’s goals have been to better prepare and train faculty to work with veterans and to get the veterans more involved with the university.
“The faculty needs to be well equipped,” Barnard said.
Besides being able to help with day-to-day problems and processes veterans may run into, the staff also wants the veterans to know they are welcome into their offices, even if it’s just for a quick high five.
“We’re hospitable, like walking into your mom’s house,” Barnard said.
New events such as the welcome dinner for veterans – held for the first time last fall – and the first orientation for veterans – which took place this semester – are just a couple examples of the things the initiative is doing to be welcoming for both new student veterans and veterans already attending Belmont.
Holding events at the beginning of the semester benefits everyone, said Jennifer Kiev, head of team marketing and promotions for the Veterans Success Initiative.
“We felt an earlier, stronger connection,” Kiev said.
Johnathan League, Army veteran and president of the Bruin Vets, has been a key player for the veterans of Belmont, as well as for the growing relationship between the university and student veterans.
League also believes the opening of a new space and the growing relationship with the school will attract more veterans to attend Belmont and will foster an environment for those already attending to connect more easily with one another.
“I feel it’s been amazing and a huge opportunity for Belmont to have provided so many growing organizations campuswide with a designated space for its students,” League said.