Aiken Standard: USCA Veterans Student Success Center Opens
By DEDE BILES
When USC Aiken celebrated the official opening of its Veteran Student Success Center Sunday, it was fitting that the strip of fabric used in the ribbon-cutting ceremony was a patriotic red, white and blue. The facility, located in the school’s Gregg-Graniteville Library, is designed to aid men and women who served in the military in making the transition back to civilian life.
“The university has needed something like this for a long time,” said Colin Schaufler, a 24-year-old USCA student who is a Marine Corps veteran.
Originally from North Augusta, Schaufler is a junior biology major who wants to be a conservation officer. He is the president of the USCA’s Student Veterans Organization, which has only been in existence since late last year.
“The veteran’s mind-set is a little different than the normal civilian’s or even the normal college student’s mind-set,” Schaufler said. “When you’re a veteran who goes to school after being in the military, you feel like you almost can’t talk to anyone because you’re normally older than other students and you have a family. Having a veteran student center and a student veterans organization provides a help and support network for people who have had the same experiences.”
According to Robert Murphy, who is the veteran student center’s program lead, there are approximately 200 veterans, active and reserve military personnel and dependents of veterans who are students at USCA. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a USCA graduate.
“The center is completed and everything is in place,” he said. Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony near the entrance to the veteran student center’s door, there was a champagne toast. Then a reception and a program with speakers that included U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. and Congressional Medal of Honor winner Mike Thornton were held at USCA’s Etherredge Center.
The veteran student center had a soft opening about 60 days ago, according to Murphy. The three primary pillars of the center’s program, he said, are connecting veteran students to veteran students on campus; connecting veterans to the community through internships and volunteer opportunities; and helping veterans connect back to their military experiences and take pride in what they accomplished while in uniform.
Dr. Sandra Jordan, USCA’s chancellor, talked how proud the school was “to be designated, after a survey by G.I. Jobs magazine, as a military-friendly institution.” She also spoke about how the school’s leaders discussed what more they could be doing to help students who were veterans.
“We took a look at many models around the country,” Jordan said. “Then we, last semester, began that effort of planning this center that we’re dedicating today.”
She recognized the support of the Aiken Warrior Project in the effort. She also mentioned a new initiative that she said involves a partnership with that organization and Aiken Technical College to create “a veterans to career program” with local business and industry. The goal is to move students who have completed their college degrees “right into jobs,” Jordan said.
Wilson praised USCA’s push to help veterans.
“Robert Murphy, thank you, your passion is so obvious, and Chancellor Jordan, I want to thank your for your vision,” Wilson said. “What I really like is that this is not just a veteran student center, this is a veteran student success center. That’s just awesome.”
Thornton, a Navy veteran, urged everyone to support the veteran student center.
“They (veterans) fought for this country, and now it’s our country’s time to fight for them,” he said. “It’s time for us to step forward and help them.”
Thornton received standing ovations before and after speaking.