Veterans Resource Center aids student

Last week, NKU’s Veterans Resource Station opened its doors for the first time. In two weeks, the new station has assisted nearly 100 veterans on NKU’s campus, according to figures provided by Dave Merriss, director of the Veterans Resource Station.

“The Veterans Resource Station has helped me access benefits, given me social opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have and has made my NKU experience all the better,” said Brian Collins, a freshman computer science major and a veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq with the United States Marine Corps.

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report detailing university enrollment trends among young male veterans between ages 24-29, the population of this group of veterans is on an upward trend, while the same number for non-veteran young males is down.

With the economic recession causing many to consider going back to school, combined with the increased benefits provided by the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, veterans are attending colleges and universities in larger numbers.

Veterans oftentimes face challenges when transitioning to civilian life, especially at colleges and universities, according to the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice. These include alienation from younger classmates, the effects of having been removed from the classroom for years and family responsibilities.

In 2008, NKU’s veteran population was around 200. Now, according to the Veterans Resource Station, it’s estimated to be at around 500.

Recognizing the growth in NKU’s veteran population, the university decided to open and fund the office, starting this year, in order to combine all of the resources it provides for veterans into one place, according to Merriss.

“We want to create a culture of trust and connection in the campus community so we can promote the well-being and success of veterans,” Merriss said.

As a licensed social worker, Merriss served in the Army and has been working with veterans at NKU since 2008, when he was the founding advisor for NKU’s student-run veteran organization, Norse V.E.T.S. (Veterans for Education and Transitional Support).

He sees his office as a point of contact for veterans, their dependents/spouses and students who are interested in Reserve Officer Training Corps. The Veterans Resource Station has three peer mentors, all of whom are veterans, and one volunteer peer mentor.

Veterans who come into the Veterans Resource Station can be directed to a special coordinator who handles military transcripts and G.I. Bill benefits; visit with other veterans who are in the office; be directed towards Veteran Affairs and other health services tailored to their needs; and anything else they may require.

The Veterans Resource Station also sponsors veteran social functions, provides mentorship and serves as a go-between concerning special needs for veterans.

“Without the help of the Veterans Resource Station, I wouldn’t have people to talk to who understand what it’s like to transition from combat to civilian life,” said freshman criminal justice and environmental science major Dakoda Jones, who served two tours in Iraq with the United States Marine Corps.

Jones said the Veterans Resource Station is a place for him to come to and that he has received help in getting grants from the federal government to attend NKU.

There is no standard processing time for those who access the Veterans Resource Station. Every individual receives unique treatment.

With the current generation of veterans from the War on Terror, universities around the country will face growing populations of veterans, requiring them to adapt and become more veteran-friendly, according to Merriss.

NKU has been rated as one of the most military-friendly schools in the country by “G.I. Jobs Magazine” for the fourth year in a row.

“Without this place for veterans to come, the transition from the battlefield to the classroom would only be more difficult,” said Veterans Resource Station peer mentor Jessica Trevithick.