Thursday, December 2, 2021
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A New Resource for Student Vets

Members of the armed forces have a new destination on campus. Cherry Hall room 239 is now the At Ease Zone. There, student soldiers and veterans will find resources and referrals for navigating the obstacles that are unique to their situations, such as financial aid and verification. The space is also a good place to relax between classes, get some work done and meet with others facing similar circumstances.

Rachel Jewett, Graduate Student of the Social Work Program and veteran of the Marine Corp, described the process of the At Ease Zone becoming a reality.

“The Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management [Melvin c. Tyler] had a committee for student veterans back in 2012,” Jewett said. “They did a very detailed self-study and then compared it with national statistics with veterans transitioning back to college campuses. Kind of doing a forecast of, ‘Hey this is a population that’s growing.’ So [there is] the business side of it, but then also the ethical side, that we didn’t have any services or connected services for veterans.”

From the research the committee made six recommendations. The At Ease Zone will directly fulfill two of the recommendations: Provide an Office of Military and Veteran Students Success; and Establish a UMKC Military and Veteran Students Support Team. The “At Ease Zone” will also become something of a headquarters for a number of other recommendations: Connect and refer to the Veterans Certifying Official; and spur faculty and staff training to give the university’s student veterans the best chance of success.

The Social Work Department in Cherry Hall became the home of the “At Ease Zone.” Jewett explained that a collaboration between Eric Anderson, Director of the UMKC Office of Technology Commercialization, and Dr. Bob Prue, Associate Professor with the School of Social Work, led to the realization of that there was space available within the Social Work offices.

“The Department of Social Work is very interested in working with veterans,” Jewett said. “A lot of the students are interested in [Veteran’s Affairs]. So it was just like timing and place and everything just folded together.”

Once they had the space, the At Ease Zone quickly found people willing to donate furniture or money or devote resources to the cause.

The space is an office that has been converted to serve the group’s purposes. The walls are newly painted bright blue and the walls and ceiling are adorned with flags and memorabilia from each of the armed forces. When the At Ease Zone ordered large decals that are displayed on the building’s windows adjacent to the Student Union to attract passersby, the graphics department then provided an additional mural that covers the one wall of the office. The At Ease Zone has computers that are available for visitors to complete school work, fill out forms for benefits, or just to hang out and check Facebook. Also they have a refrigerator and coffee available all day.

The staff is friendly and genuinely wants to help make student veterans’ transition into college as successful as possible.

“It’s a place for veterans to come to connect with other veterans, to be able to kind of have a quiet space for studying or relaxing,” Jewett said. “It’s also a resource. But it’s not like ‘Hey I have resources for you!’ It’s a conversational thing.”

Through the laidback, but supportive, environment, Jewett hopes to be able to help make the processes involved in integrating with college life a little easier.

The “At Ease Zone” is located in Cherry Hall, 5030 Cherry St. Kansas City, Mo and is currently open Monday through Thursday 9-7 and Friday 9-3. They will be hosting a barbeque on the outdoor basketball courts behind Cherry Hall on Monday, April 25. The plan is to meet up, eat some good food, maybe play a pick-up game, and talk about ways for the “At Ease Zone” to best serve the veterans at the university.

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