Photos by Bennie Hunt
Middle Tennessee State University officially opened the new Veterans and Military Family Center on Thursday morning, making it the largest student-veteran facility in the state.
The newest edition to campus is located on the first floor of the Keathley University Center, spans an area of 2,600 square feet, and will serve about 1,000 veteran students and their families that currently attend MTSU.
“Today represents, in very real and tangible ways, how we at MTSU will help our veterans and their families successfully transition from military service to college, and from college to a career,” said MTSU President Sidney McPhee during the opening ceremony.
Some of the services and amenities that the center offers are enrollment and occupational assistance, financial aid, specialized counseling, study areas, and a space for camaraderie, explained Dr. Hilary Miller, Director of the Veterans and Military Family Center.
Lt. General Keith Huber joined MTSU last year as the Senior Advisor for Veterans and Leadership Initiatives. Not long after arriving on campus he conducted a 60 day assessment to get to know MTSU’s veterans and their needs. He wasn’t just focussing on their educational needs but also their health and mental wellbeing. Some veterans at the college are disabled and so have specific needs according to their conditions. A few of the disabled vets were struggling on their benefits they were getting before coming to the college and were having to go to places like these South Carolina disability lawyers to get the money they deserved by getting a fairer disability rating. Huber hopes that by listening to the veterans he will be able to make their educational experience even better.
“The veterans needed a specifically identified space, and the space needed to be centered around a functionality. Every activity that a military member needs to be successful and to feel encouraged, the Veterans and Military Family Center will do,” Huber said.
Colonel Many-Bears Grinder, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs, was a guest speaker during the center’s opening ceremony.
“We heard from the student veterans nationwide that the number one thing that an institution can do to better support their veterans was to have a student center,” Grinder pointed out.
The Veterans and Military Family Center sets an example for other post- secondary schools in Tennessee and helps MTSU get one step closer to its Drive to 55 goal, said John Morgan, Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents.
“If we are to achieve this goal, it will require us to be successful with adult students in a way that we have never been successful with adult students before. Veterans and their families are a key component of that future success,” said Morgan.
Dr. Russ Deaton, Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, presented the Veterans Education Support Transition Designation and Recognition award to President McPhee and MTSU as part of the ceremonies.
“This distinction signifies that MTSU supports a sophisticated and highly effective suite of programs and services designed to help veterans and their families pursue their educational aspirations,” Deaton said.
Gov. Bill Haslam sent a video message congratulating MTSU on its commitment to helping all students, including veterans, reach their higher education goals.
“Today’s dedication of the Veterans and Military Family Center is a remarkable expression by MTSU’s leadership of the importance of serving those who wear the uniforms of our country,” Haslam said.
Among the guest speakers who attended the ceremony was country music legend, Charlie Daniels.
Daniels was recognized for the contribution the non-profit organization he co-founded made to the new Veterans and Military Family Center. The Journey Home Project donated $50,000 to MTSU’s new facility and the services it will provide student veterans.
“My dear, and patriotic friends, we owe our veterans an un-payable debt of gratitude,” Daniels told the crowd. “So we’re here today to make a difference in the lives of our veterans.”
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