September 7, 2011 Posted by Emily in Explore, Montana, News, Regional
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MSU to dedicate new veterans center on Sept. 12

Maybe it's the color, a newly painted Aegean blue, that gives the recently renovated room 180 in Montana State University's Strand Union Building a feeling of tranquility, of being an island in a sea of activity.

That is the atmosphere that Brenda York, MSU's director of Disability, Re-Entry and Veterans Services, hoped for in the large room that is the newly minted MSU Veteran's Center. As York sees it, MSU's veteran population deserves a little peace after giving so much.

The room that houses MSU's Veterans Center, is dedicated to a variety of activities for MSU's student veterans. The center will officially be dedicated in ceremonies scheduled at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 12. The public is invited to attend.

"The vet center is a place to help veterans with the transition to higher education," she said. "Montana State University through the support of many, including President Cruzado and Vice President of Student Success Allen Yarnell, clearly demonstrates this commitment to our country's vets."

York said that the number of veterans attending MSU spring semester was 565, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. That is more than three times the number of veterans served when York first started at MSU 16 years ago.

"As a result of the Post 9/11, or New GI Bill, (veteran) attendance at MSU and elsewhere has just exploded," York said.

York said that the majority of the veterans using the bill to attend MSU are probably ages 22-28, although there are some who are older.

"They need a place to come and hang out between classes, a place to use a computer or a quiet place to study," she said. "We think it will see a lot of use once they know it is here."

One of those veterans is Sean Gifford, a senior majoring in Liberal Studies (Global and Multicultural Studies specializing in Middle-Eastern Culture). A veteran of Iraq who originally hails from New Orleans, Gifford is president of the MSU Veterans Student Club.

"It's nice to have a large, quiet space on campus for veterans," said Gifford, who is also one of four work-study students who man the center. "There is a huge veteran population at the school, so it will be used."

In addition to being a site for drop-in support for veterans, the room will be the location for veteran-oriented seminars and guest speakers. It will house veteran resources as well as workshops, family activities and other events that will serve the veteran population, York said.

York said that the opening of the center comes at a time when there seems to be a lot of activity at MSU celebrating veterans. On Oct. 22 and 23, MSU will host a Yellow Ribbon ceremony for Montana military personnel who are 30 and 60 days returned from assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, MSU will be the host for Montana for the National Roll Call of veterans who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, this summer, U.S. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki joined Montana Senator Jon Tester in a forum for veterans at MSU.

"We have been working on this (the center) for three years, so it is good to see it come together," York said.

The MSU Veterans Center is open from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. -5 p.m. on Friday.