The Student Veteran’s Organization (SVO) is kicking into high gear with new plans and new recruitment.
The group, organized at UMKC in spring 2010, has doubled the attendance at its weekly meetings, according to Vice President Naomi Carter.
Between 20 and 30 people attend meetings regularly, and an additional 100 are Facebook fans, Carter said.
At the beginning of the semester, SVO made several efforts to get the word out about the group.
Carter said SVO met with the Student Government Association (SGA) over the summer, and has since been invited to make a presentation during one of the upcoming meetings in hopes of creating an SVO senate seat.
The group has also worked Student Affairs, which sent emails to the nearly 300 students receiving GI (veteran’s) benefits at UMKC, informing them of the group.
“One of the biggest hurdles we’ve faced is not being able to disseminate their info,” Carter said of student veterans’ identities, which are classified enrollment data.
A back-to-school barbecue and success seminar held at the beginning of the year focused on one of SVO’s primary goals: to bring together veteran students.
As the presence and awareness of the group increases, Carter hopes to see the student veteran community come together.
“There are some students whose commitment [to the military] is done,” she said, “but some people feel disconnected because they’ve been out of it for so long and want a way to get back together and reconnect.”
Carter said many student veterans struggle to transition from the military’s rigidity to a more relaxed college atmosphere.
“I would say the student veterans on campus are more focused, driven and task-oriented as a whole because they’re used to a structured environment,” Carter said. “One of the biggest challenges of that change from a structured environment is losing the support of people in the military, and that’s why we’re here.”
A community service outreach is also an important focus of the group.
“Not everyone is into volunteering,” Carter said, “but a lot of us want to continue to serve others outside of the military.”
This year, these students will spend Veteran’s Day doing yard work for elderly veterans, a volunteer opportunity the group first took advantage of last year.
The group will partner with the American Disability Association to help handicapped children, and will discuss the topic of veteran unemployment at the annual Student Veterans of America conference in Las Vegas this December.
Carter said SVO has also worked with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Mel Tyler to create a student veteran’s taskforce to create “at ease zones,” a concept similar to the “safe spaces” implemented by the LGBTQIA office.
According to Carter, several professors have already expressed interest in having an “at ease zone,” although the group hasn’t always encountered support at UMKC.
During finals week in spring 2010, SVO gave away baked treats and coffee during finals week, something it plans to do again this year.
Carter recalls a professor telling the students they were “brainwashed” into supporting a war they knew nothing about.
SVO member Cailey McClurken recalled the same experience.
“There’s quite a bit of ignorance,” she said. “I’m not offended because it’s a lack of information, but it bothers me when people refuse to be educated.”
Educating UMKC and eliminating negative stereotypes is another focus of SVO, which is planning another goodie giveaway this semester during finals week.
“People are stressed out,” Carter said. “Having a bit of brain food is a big difference, and it’s another way we can help people out and make a positive difference.”