Beginning college is a daunting task for many people, but it can sometimes be made more difficult when students are fighting battles of their own. For many active military and veteran students, transitioning to life on a college campus is not an easy one. However, the Student Veteran Organization here at Washburn can be of great help.
The Student Veteran Organization, or formally, the Student Veteran and Military Connected Student Organization, is a national organization that lends a helping hand for students who are active in the military or are veterans. The organization provides scholarships, connects student veterans and provides assistance with obstacles that student veterans struggle with, such as finances or food provision. SVA on Washburn’s campus is located in Mabee 206A, and is headed by advisor Chris Bowers and President Christopher (CJ) Emily.
Bowers served several terms in the military himself, and he is now the faculty advisor for the organization, an adjunct professor for the criminal justice department, and the Military Transition Coordinator for Washburn’s Student Success Center. He spoke about the importance of the organization and the relationships that students form within it.
“We help ensure their success as students. The studies show, the more connected you are to a campus, the more likely you are to finish and graduate. If you are connected with a group here that has resources to get you through school, you’re more likely to succeed,” said Bowers.
SVA is a great opportunity for students to relate to and form bonds with fellow military students. As Bowers mentioned, students of all disciplines are present in the organization. Students can receive tutoring from people involved in the organization, as well as receive advice relevant to school, military service or obstacles common among military and veteran students.
Emily is a sophomore psychology major. He used to serve at Fort Riley in a mechanic unit, and currently serves in Olathe in a reserve unit. He has been in the US Army for six years. Emily shared his story of how the Student Veterans Organization helped him transition to college.
“This organization’s done a lot for me. My first semester here, due to the VA missing some paperwork, I wound up being homeless here for a while and not getting money. So, the organization set me up with ways to pay for bills; they gave me information for the pantry here on campus, so I can go get food. During that whole transition time period that I had where I was homeless, they helped me get into a place where I can get food, take care of what I needed to, that way, I could focus just on school,” Emily said.
Being a part of SVA helped Emily through a difficult period in his life, but he also stated that the organization has aided in his overall education and his drive for success.
“At first, I was very hesitant. I didn’t really want to come to college. I kind of just wanted to go to Washburn Tech, being an EMT and going about my business or do whatever. But now that I’ve taken that jump and now I’m here, I feel like the organization itself has helped me become who I really am. It’s helped me open up others, helped me push to what I really want to do,” Emily said.
Washburn’s Student Veterans Organization is a major resource for information, assistance and advice for active military and veteran students. It maintains a space where students can relate over similar obstacles and advise each other over both Washburn’s campus and military service. Bower’s advice to students, is to take advantage of the resources provided by the organization.
“The more I see the folks that are a military connected, veteran, current serving, or ROTC here, the more I see them in my office, those are the ones I see that have a more successful outcome at Washburn. The more they are in there, the more likely they are to succeed. [They should] use what we have available to them,” said Bowers.
Students can find more information by visiting their office or emailing Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edited by Adam White, Jason Morrison, Jessica Galvin