Kat Riddler, Managing Editor
Rebecca McMenamin, manager of Veteran & Military Services and a VA Certifying Official said, “It’s tough to be successful on your own, it’s about the community of people you surround yourself with. When you show up and ask questions, you never know what can happen.”
The Veterans Resource Day and BBQ was September 7 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Veterans Center and the Millennium Student Patio. The BBQ was an opportunity for both student veterans and nonmilitary students, faculty and staff to connections with one another. The Veterans Affairs Services Expo from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. provided information to veterans about VA Education, VA Healthcare, the Women’s Clinic, Vet Center mental health clinic, and VA Vocational Rehabilitation.
Rebecca McMenamin is the only full-time staff of the Veterans Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. She emphasized the importance of access to VA services for student veterans who have experienced barriers with the VA in the past: long wait times, scheduling conflicts, or getting someone on the phone. She said, “We wanted to provide more value to students instead of just the barbecue. There is always a need to bring in VA services to campus because student veterans are typically balancing multiple and it’s difficult to access VA services when you don’t have a lot of time.”
The Veterans Center provides resources to students who are curious about all things veteran-related. St. Louis native Rick Eder, junior, history, spent 10 years in the Marine Corps and decided to attend UMSL after checking out the Veterans Center on campus. He said, “I walked in one day, before I was even accepted into the school, and they talked to me like I was one of them. That’s one thing here, we treat everyone the same.”
McMenamin has been in her position for two years and in that time has been increasing programing to attract, retain, and engage student veterans on UMSL’s campus. Despite falling enrollment numbers at other schools, McMenamin said the veteran student enrollment is up 10 percent for the fall. McMenamin said, “We do outreach to students who have shown interest in coming to UMSL, but really we just answer the phone and try to be as helpful as possible. Our goal is to break down any barriers, whether it be with enrollment, transferring, or GI Bill benefits. We want to streamline that process and make it as easy as possible for students.”
While Eder attended college in California in 2010, he was involved in that school’s Veterans Center. At UMSL, he was able to apply when a position opened up and be involved in the Veterans Center. He said, “I like helping veterans… I wanted to kind of be with veterans because that is where we feel most comfortable generally… Some student vets have a hard time transitioning to the civilian life.”
This was the first year that Eder was able to attend the Veterans Resource Day and BBQ. He looked forward to talking to some of the VA reps and getting to know more of the veterans on campus.
McMenamin said, “The community is so important for students. If students don’t feel a connection to UMSL or to any university, they are less likely to persist in their education efforts, especially when things get really tough. If we can provide some sort of connection to UMSL for them, then they will know where to come if things get tough and they have questions or if they want to get involved.”
Eder encouraged anyone to come and ask questions or visit the Veterans Center. He said, “Come talk to us. If you have any questions about anything, come talk. Again, ask questions or you will never know the answer. We are not all scary people. Ninety-nine percent of us are approachable and you can talk to us about almost any topic… If you’re curious about joining, you can ask our opinion about it or ask us about life. A lot of us, generally, are older than the average student so we have a lot of life and a lot of life skills. We can share that as well.”
This semester, the Veterans Center will be increasing their programing. They will have Boeing come in three times in the next month, including at the Internship and Job Fair on September 22. Veterans will now have a pin they can wear to the job fair that identifies them as an UMSL veteran.
There is a first year experience class for veteran students to take for one credit hour for 10 weeks. In addition to providing a support system, this class is a place to discuss study skills and learn about resources on campus. Currently the chair of Military and Veteran Studies Jim Craig teaches that course. McMenamin said, “ Students who take the class pretty much have their own personal coach, Jim, through their whole first semester. The majority of students who have taken that class have been successful at UMSL
The Veterans Center will be celebrating its five year anniversary on the UMSL campus on December 7. They are located in 211 Clark Hall and provide a myriad of services for veteran students: tutoring, GI Bill benefits, financial aid resources, advising resources, and more.
The Veterans Center will also be hosting a 9/11 Day of Service with The Mission Continues from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They will be painting hallways and murals at the Normandy Kindergarten Center and building benches for the playground area. On September 11 they will be hosting 9/11 Remembrance Breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Veterans Center. The event is open to all faculty, staff, and students.
The Veterans Center is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center is open to all faculty, staff, and students.