On the corner of Central Ave. and University Blvd. stands the new Veterans Support Building. Initiated by UNM at the end of last year, the facility aims to help veteran students in their transition from military to civilian life.
Eliberto Calderón, president of the Student Veterans Association of UNM, said that students are surprised to find out that they have a new facility with different resources to help them in their studies. The office was previously located in the Student Union Building in a small room without the proper environment or resources that they needed.
This new building, on the other hand, includes a kitchen, living room, computer lab and three study rooms. Students can go and do their homework or relax after a school day.
The Women Student Veterans of UNM office is also located in the same building.
“When people talk about veterans, they think only about men, but women are also part of it,” Calderón said.
Female students are entitled to the same benefits as the men, and this building will help attend to their needs as well, he said. There is a lactation room and a room where the association can work together with the Lobo Parenting Club.
The association must maintain their facilities and utilities in order to continue operating. To meet the fiscal demands, the group uses fundraising through the UNM Foundation, which has so far been a success. Student Veterans has also talked with the UNM administration about moving to a new location, where they hope maintenance and utilities will be paid for.
“The University of New Mexico’s administration has been great. They are very supportive with the veteran student community,” Calderón said.
Student veteran life is different from that of a traditional student. These students are often older than traditional students and carry different experiences with them when they come to campus.
The Veteran Association hopes to ensure student veterans are comfortable. Thus, the association aims to host different events during the school year. Through interaction with the community organizations on campus, the New Mexico Department of Veteran Services hopes to help students process documents, while the New Mexico Division of Vocational Rehabilitation offers diverse educational benefits such as employment assistance.
In New Mexico there are about 175,000 veterans, and at UNM there are over 1,200.
Among veterans, the graduation rate is lower than average. The purpose of the new facility is to improve that figure, the environment in which veterans operate and veterans’ academics in any way possible.
“We are here to serve you,” Calderón said. “It’s all about you and improving your conditions in which you study and your ability to graduate. We have resources that will improve not only your experience at UNM, but also in the community. This is your student veteran group.”
Gerardo Archundia Soriano is a multimedia reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GerasMJ.