Nontraditional, veteran students utilize student center

The Veterans Center offers a place where veterans can hang out or study with others in a safe environment. (File Photo by Taylor Alderman | Collegian)

Over 23 percent of all graduate and undergraduate students in the fall of 2014 were nontraditional, according to the “About Us” page of the K-State Non-Traditional and Veteran Student Services website, and that number is growing.

Non-Traditional and Veteran Student Services can provide a variety of accommodations including social events, scholarships, tutoring, a Student Parent Organization for student parents and a center for student use, Joshua Reed, director of the center, said.

Reed said nontraditional students are often older and have had more life experience before entering K-State, unlike most traditional students coming directly from high school.

“They’ve already had experience prior to coming here, so we’re trying to foster a support network of students like themselves,” Reed said.

Those in the center have come to know his job is to help them with any issues they may have, Reed said. He said the center also has the ability to proctor tests, and he is willing to call professors to talk with them about individual students’ needs.

Heather Kelley, junior in communications studies and student veteran, said the nontraditional and veteran programs as well as the center have shown K-State’s additional effort in accommodating the veteran community.

“I feel like a lot of us are slipping through the cracks, and it’s huge that K-State is starting to pay more attention to it and starting to give more attention to the veteran community here, not only on campus but everywhere around here,” Kelley said.

Jennifer Smith, junior in microbiology and treasurer for the Veteran Student Organization, or VSO, said the center has given the nontraditional and veteran student population an opportunity.

“I think it’s given us a voice,” Smith said. “I know we’re a minority at K-State, but we’re a growing minority and it’s nice that we’re being taken care of.”

The center provides a place for all nontraditional or veteran students to come together for academic or social purposes. It has computers, a television, a lounge area and a place for students to study.

The VSO is an organization on campus for veteran students, and they utilize the center for their meetings, according to Reed. The VSO provides veterans with a group of students like themselves and helps ease the transition from military life into university life, according to the VSO mission statement.

Justin Manford, junior in economics and president of the VSO, said there is diversity among those who use the center.

“Within the veteran community, you have people from all colors and creeds and sexual orientations and races and religions and none of that matters (at the center),” Manford said.

Manford said, however, he believes the only way the current community in the center can get better is through growth.

“The more people, whether veterans or traditional students or faculty who come (to the center), the more that people interact with each other, the more we can grow as a community,” Manford said.

Reed said the center is growing and while moving to a larger location would help, they are currently trying to make the best use of the available space.

“We have such a great need, but we don’t have the space,” Reed said. “We do need a bigger space and we’re trying to work that out.”

The environment in the center is like a family and the people who use it all seem very close, Reed said.

Manford said those in the center are friendly to all new or unfamiliar students coming to the center.

“Conversely, if we’re (at the center) and somebody walks in and we don’t know them, it doesn’t matter,” Manford said. “Everyone is very welcoming.”

While all are welcome, Manford said the veterans easily connect with one another simply by their shared experiences. In fact, if he meets soldiers who served in the same area or country that he did, the connection is instant.

“We’ve shed the same blood in the same mud and that kind of bond doesn’t break,” Manford said. “It only grows stronger with time.”

In addition to the natural connection formed by veterans, the fact that all the students who use the center are nontraditional is what solidifies their bonds as well, Smith said.

“It is our own little piece of dysfunctional heaven,” Manford said.

My name is Emily Moore and I'm a senior majoring in English and mass communications with a minor in leadership. I love to read, write and edit. During my free time, I enjoy doing crossword puzzles, rock climbing and spending time with my friends.