Access campuses open veterans center


Bethanie Gengler

Coordinator Timber Smith and student employee Edward Hardin are in the newly-opened UWO-FC Veterans Resource Center.

UW Oshkosh has opened veterans resource centers at both UWO-Fond du Lac and UWO-Fox Cities offering benefits, resources and opportunities to connect.

Services include education benefits, student service information, priority registration, information on campus events, computer labs with available printers, Wi-Fi and lounges with free coffee and tea.

Veterans Resource Coordinator Timber Smith said the centers also have Common Access Card technology which is a military card reader that provides veterans with the opportunity to access their emails, orders and trainings that they couldn’t access without it.

“The fact that it’s accessible at school so they don’t have to go to base is pretty awesome,” Timber said. “You can get access to those things. They can work on schoolwork and maybe grab their orders and trainings.”

Smith said prior to the merging of the access campuses, UWO-FDL had a walk-in space for veterans that was never opened and UWO-FC did not have a resource center.

After the merger there was an opportunity to continue to serve the veterans off campuses; however, Smith and Education Benefit Coordinator Michelle Munns took the opportunity to create spaces on the access campuses.

While the locations have only been open since the start of classes, Munns and Smith said veteran students on the access campuses will be getting more specialized and individualized attention.

Veterans resource centers are open every morning Monday through Friday with available staff, mainly work-study veterans, present at least half of the time.

Smith said work study students in those spaces make it a mission to meet other veterans.

“I don’t care what branch you start in, everybody starts in the same place. It’s called basic training,” he said.
Smith said veterans on campus are often nontraditional students who sometimes don’t feel like they fit in. The veteran’s resource centers offer them a place to connect with other veterans.

“You come into the veterans resource center, and even if they’re not talking about military things, it’s that common experience,” Smith said.

Munns and Smith try to be at the access campuses every other Tuesday.

Each location is equipped with video conferencing phones for student veterans to call staff if none are present.

“If we are not on campus, they can at least know they can still walk into that space and get in touch with us like we are on campus,” Munn said. “A virtual presence became important in making sure staff didn’t take away from the level of service they provide.”

With the restructure, the new centers are in the process of marketing the access locations to increase student utilization. Students initially contact staff about benefits, which leads to an opportunity for the staff to get to know student veterans.

Veterans Resource Center staff said they hope to increase the buzz and get more veterans to the centers to get to know them and help guide them to the resources they may need.

“The goal is to bring veterans to these spaces, show them what we have to offer and make sure they feel invited in,” Smith said. “We have space for them.”