Service members find a home on the Marion campus
Picture left & right: student military service members Jack Houck, Connor Price, and Michael Houck share stories of basic training, duty stations, and college life in the new Veterans Support Lounge in the Alber Student Center.
>>> VETERANS LOUNGE PHOTO GALLERY
Veterans Support Lounge provides camaraderie, support, and interaction for campus veterans
After the concerted effort of student veterans and their advocates, Marion campus student military members and veterans now have a space on campus they can call their own.
The Marion Campus Veterans Support Lounge, located in Room 111B of the Alber Student Center, opened in January 2015 and has recently undergone a huge transformation thanks to donations from across the Marion campus and The Ohio State University Veterans Affairs Office in Columbus. The space, which began as an empty classroom, has now grown into a sanctuary for student military members and campus veterans to garner support, study, decompress, and share their military experiences with other like-minded veterans.
According to Sharon Gattshall, an academic advisor and military student advocate from Ohio State Marion, the effort to provide a dedicated space on campus for student, faculty, and staff military personnel begin in 2013. Some student veterans shared with Gattshall that they were going to their cars between classes to try to find a quiet space to decompress.
“The students found it challenging to bond with other veterans because there wasn’t a common area on campus that they felt free enough to discuss their common deployment situation and other military experiences in front of their civilian student counterparts,” Gattshall said.
Ohio State Marion freshman business major, Darrin Warwick, who served four years as a specialist in the U.S. Army, felt those who have served in the armed forces possess a set of common values, beliefs, and experiences that make them unique. This underscores the importance of having a location on campus to bring military personnel together.
“There is more camaraderie, said Warwick. “These people are the ones that are going to save your life. You have a special bond with them,” he added. “They’ve been through what you’ve been through.”
Ohio State Marion Mental Health & Wellness Counselor Leslie Beary, LISWS felt there was a substantial need for service personnel to receive extra support when they enter into college and the civilian world from military active duty.
“These students are coming from a structured setting, which often differs from the civilian world and even more so, a college campus,” Beary said. “Due to their military experience, their worldview may be different. Many of these students have traveled the world and some have had the responsibility of having another person’s life in their hands,” she added.
Both Beary & Warwick contrasted that with the life experience of a traditional aged student attending Ohio State Marion, lending credence to the unique socialization needs of student service members.
“You might not connect with the traditional age college student. Most student military personnel are a little older and not directly out of high school,” Warwick said. “There was a guy in one of my classes who was a veteran. I was more inclined to talk to him than anyone else.”
“Due to recent deployments, these students are sometimes coming home with physical injuries and in some cases psychological injuries that people don’t perceive,” said Beary. “They sometimes need extra help to find their way and get ready for college.”
“Which is why we joined together to help these students and advise the Veterans of Marion Campus student group,” she said.
Early in the process, students made a wish list of specific items they wanted in the lounge, shared Gattshall. Overall, they wanted a place to come together, do homework, eat their lunch, have a quiet place to study and be able to share experiences with their fellow veteran students.
“The Ohio State University made a huge effort to help,” Gattshall said.
"A special thanks to all those who donated and made the Marion Campus Veterans Support Lounge a reality." ~ Sharon Gattshall
The Marion Campus Veterans Student Organization found a storage facility at Ohio State’s Columbus campus containing number of unused items from residence halls, lounge areas. Those items were later loaded on a truck and brought to Marion free of charge. Campus organizers also found a number of unused items on the Marion campus that were donated.
Ohio State’s Office of Military & Veterans Services donated a coffee pot and made a significant financial contribution to purchase military emblems that adorn the wall, as well as a printer for students. One computer with a video camera was also been donated, which allows student to speak with military support personnel on the Columbus campus without driving and hour south.
“The computer with video camera is helpful if they need help with their GI Bill, vocational rehabilitation paperwork, whatever is needed,” Gattshall said.
Marion campus maintenance personnel repainted the space this summer and added more electric outlets and phone access.
The room now features comfortable seating, computer, Wi-Fi, 3 designated study areas/workstations, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, and storage space. The space is appropriately appointed with a U.S. flag, and wall decals featuring the insignia for multiple branches of military.
“I think they have everything on their list and more to make it a proud place for military and veteran students to come Ohio State Marion or Marion Technical College to receive the help to be successful students and graduate,” said Gattshall.
She felt autumn semester use of the space had increased tremendously.
“It’s great to walk over there and find student studying or talking in groups,” she said. “They have a communication board so they know what Marion events are happening or if some of the students want to tutor others.”
The campus has now began tracking its veteran students more closely to help ensure they are matriculating through college toward graduation, and have the necessary support needed for success.
“I think this support will go a long way at helping our students be able to graduate,” explained Gattshall.
Marion campus student, faculty, or staff member who currently or has previously served in the military, you have open access to the new Veterans Support Lounge. For more information or questions contact, Sharon Gattshall at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 740-725-6279.