Thursday, September 11, 2014
The transition from the military to a university campus can be daunting, which is why Mercyhurst University has taken steps in recent years to ease the process, including the addition of a new veterans center on campus and full-time veteran outreach and enrollment coordinator.
The center, which is in the process of being furnished, is housed in Room 415 of Hammermill Library and will include a conference table, conversation groupings, a small computer bank and kitchen facilities, according to Steve Zidek, faculty advisor for the Mercyhurst Veterans Association. The office of Stacy Smith, veterans outreach and admissions coordinator, has been relocated adjacent to the center in 414 Hammermill in an effort to streamline resources and support services.
“This will give our veterans a place to gather, to share ideas, to study, to support each other,” Zidek said. Despite the challenges they face in acclimating to academia after military service, these individuals bring a great deal to the classroom, not the least of which is infusing a real-life perspective in a variety of timely issues and being role models for service.
Mercyhurst’s Erie and North East campuses serve 120 students receiving veterans benefits, with 80 to 90 actual veterans and the remainder spouses or children of veterans. The majority are majoring in intelligence studies or criminal justice, although there are others in programs spanning art history and pre-med.
Besides being a gathering place for these veterans, the facility will also be open to ROTC members, a relationship Zidek believes is worthy of cultivating.
“Our ROTC students represent the new generation of military and they can learn a lot from our veterans, most of whom enlisted because of 9/11 or just afterward,” Zidek said. “Some of these ROTC students will graduate this May as second lieutenants and will be in charge of enlisted personnel, so they’ll have an advantage by talking to these experienced service men and women, including many combat veterans, during their college years.”
The Mercyhurst’s veteran-students recently fundraised to buy a new flag for the front campus, replacing one that had become worn and faded. Together with the ROTC cadets, they conducted a flag raising ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 11, a day specifically chosen to celebrate their relationship and their country.
For more information on the veterans’ experience at Mercyhurst, contact Stacy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.