UT has long been recognized as a great place for student veterans, and now the welcoming atmosphere is even warmer. The campus’s new Veterans Resource Center on the ground floor of Hodges Library is open.
The center, located across from One Stop Student Services Center, provides student veterans with a place to study, socialize, and meet with coordinators who can help them connect to the services they need.
A grand opening ceremony will be held November 17. During that event, UT will receive a certificate noting its designation as a VETS Campus.
“We’ve tried to ensure that our campus is a place where student veterans and their families feel valued, welcome, and supported, said Veteran Student Services Coordinator Jayetta Rogers. “We’re pleased that outside organizations have commended our work; their rankings and recognitions send the message to veterans UT is an excellent university home for them.”
The VETS Campus designation was created in 2014 when the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support Act. To earn the honor, a campus must survey veterans annually to help determine their needs, educate the campus community about the challenges veterans can face, and assess whether a veteran’s military training and experience can translate into college credit. Campuses must also have outreach and communication efforts directed at veterans and host orientation, mentoring and other support programs for veterans.
Received last year, the VETS designation is the latest in a series of kudos UT has received for its efforts to support veterans.
The university was designated a Purple Heart University in 2014 and was the first school in Tennessee to receive this designation.
The university ranks 31st among all public universities in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges for Veterans.
The new Veterans Resource Center features quiet study areas, a common room with microwave and refrigerator access, and a meeting room for organizations.
“All of the same services we offered before from our office in the Registrar’s Office, they can get here in the center,” Rogers said. “They can come in for anything. We can help them navigate on and off-campus resources.”
The Veterans Resource Center is partnering with the Knoxville Vet Center, an organization that provides readjustment counseling for veterans. A counselor from the Vet Center will be available in the Resource Center once a week.
A dog from HABIT (Human Animal Bond in Tennessee) will make routine stops in the Veterans Resource Center, too.
About 975 veterans, military spouses, and dependents are expected to attend UT this fall using VA benefits. Some of them will be taking advantage of a new Tennessee law that grants in-state tuition to anyone currently living in Tennessee who is using VA educational benefits, regardless of their official home of record.
One of the newest student veterans at UT is Jordan Harris, who spent six years as a Navy diver in the Special Operations Forces before enrolling this fall as a freshman studying philosophy.
He’s working in at the front desk of the Veterans Resource Center.
“I think this new center is awesome,” said Harris, who grew up in the Tri-Cities area of East Tennessee. “When I first visited UT, Veterans Services was in located in the Registrar’s Office. It was really just a cubicle. It was cramped and hard to find.
“This new center is above and beyond. It’s an open space and easier to find. There’s room to put down your backpack, study, and work on projects with other veterans.”