Above: Rebecca McMenamin, the new certifying official of the Veterans Center (Courtesy of Kate Vohsen/The Current)
By Kate Vohsen, Staff Writer
In today’s society, it is uncommon to not know a veteran, whether it is a family member, friend, or a peer sitting in the back of class. Since January 2013, the University of Missouri—St. Louis’ Veterans Center has been helping veterans transition from military life into civilian and student life. The center is located at 211 Clark Hall. The Veterans Center is an exceptionally welcoming place where veterans can go for all of their needs, even if it is just for a cup of coffee. The Veterans Center has served 389 veterans this semester alone, 78 percent male veterans and 22 percent female veterans. This semester, the veteran enrollment is the third highest in the last decade, according to the UMSL Veteran Demographic Data sheet for fall 2015.
The Current was able to sit down with Rebecca McMenamin, the new manager of the UMSL Veterans Center and VA School Certifying Official, to talk about what is happening in the Veterans Center. “The Veterans Center is an invaluable experience. Our veterans are so diverse,” stated McMenamin. “We are making it a one-stop shop for everything veteran related. We are building a community that helps build retention and success for our veterans. They have multiple priorities and are balancing a lot,” said McMenamin. She later said, “51 percent of veterans who go to college do not graduate. Veterans need to have a sense of belonging and the Veterans Center is trying to do just that for them.”
“I could sit anywhere on campus and do my homework, but I choose the Vet Center because I feel comfortable, get to enjoy interesting conversations and connect with friends with similar experience. Plus the coffee is always hot,” said Molly Jasper, senior, elementary education, and a veteran in the National Guard Reserve.
The Veterans Center offers many events and programs to help veterans. One of the newest programs the Veterans Center is offering this semester is the Veteran to Veteran tutoring program. Tutoring is available in the Veterans Center for math, sciences and writing. This program is funded by the Access to Success grant, which is an internal grant from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. Another program that the Veterans Center offers is the professional workshop series. This series will include guest speakers and assistance with finding a career after graduating from UMSL. Nick Perez, junior, business administration, who has been deployed five times and who is actively serving in the Missouri Air National Guard, said, “This [the professional workshop series] is a way to get more veteran involvement on campus.”
A major event the Veterans Center hosts is an enhanced service-learning program. This semester the Veterans Center will team up with The Mission Continues, a St. Louis based organization that coordinates volunteer activities for veterans returning to civilian life, and U.S. Vets, an organization that provides transitional housing to homeless veterans. Volunteers will help rake leaves, fortify gardens, and create a horseshoe pit. “There will be pumpkin and face painting. We will also be making cards for veterans. Families are welcome,” said McMenamin. This event is less than two miles from UMSL’s campus, on 8410 Engler Park Court. It will be held at 8 a.m. on October 17.