By Greg Lewis on February 16, 2012
Reprinted with permission from the Cavalier Daily
The Aurora Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to the Sheila C. Johnson Center of the Curry School of Education yesterday for the creation of a website to benefit student veterans at the University.
The center’s website aims to increase awareness of student veterans at the University and give them a forum for connection and support.
Navigating the transition from military life to student life “can be tough,” said Seth Hayden, a lecturer and research associate in the Johnson Center. The introduction of the new website, however, will make the transition easier.
“They’ve served honorably and we try to do all we can to help them realize their dreams,” Hayden said, referring to military veterans who decide to pursue their education at the University.
Hayden helped write the petition for the grant and will also play a role in the creation of the website.
Working at the center, which provides an “integrated approach” to providing human service assistance for students, Hayden said, made him realize a weakness of the University.
“I looked at the landscape and it seemed like there could be more done for the veterans,” he said.
Hayden said he worked with other University faculty to help turn the knowledge they gained from their professional experiences into a viable idea.
The University’s grant petition stood out, foundation spokesperson Beth Miller-Herholtz said, because it included a plan to track the success of the proposed program.
This plan “made it easy for the board to approve the grant,” she added.
Miller-Herholtz also said the foundation’s work to aid former service members looking to earn a degree is compelling, because it benefits both the veterans and society.
“It’s clear today that industry needs the kind of innovation and leadership demonstrated everyday within our military,” she said.
The University’s plan for a student veteran website would help make the transition from the military sector to the civilian sector much easier, Engineering student and military veteran Jeff O’Dell said.
“When I first came here, it was a very tough transition for me personally,” O’Dell said. “I’d been home for the first time after about a year and a half deployment [in Iraq.]”
He became involved in the new organization Military Veterans @ UVA, sponsored by Hayden, last summer and said he wished such a support system had existed when he started at the University.
O’Dell said the website and veterans organizations help student veterans understand that “there are people out there who know what you’re going through, what you’ve been through.”