Soldiers to Scholars: Connecting Student Veterans to Campus Culture
The University of Central Florida has roughly 1,400 student veterans, a population that has grown from about 200 in 2006. It is a wave that may not crest for years as more than 2 million Americans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
While it’s true that veterans share the challenges faced by traditional students, their circumstances often present additional obstacles, says Paul Viau, director of UCF’s Veterans Academic Resource Center (VARC). The center opened three years ago as a one-stop shop for veterans’ resources and has become an academic and social hub for vets, who use its public space and study rooms.
According to Viau, UCF’s veterans are a diverse group. While a few are in their 50s, most are in their late 20s or early 30s. The majority enlisted after high school, served four to 10 years, and came to UCF after two years at a state college. About 25 percent of UCF’s student veterans are women.
“They often have other things going on outside the classroom — families, jobs or other obligations,” Viau says. “They’re also at a different level of maturity from the more traditional students, so it can be tough for them to fit in on campus.”