14:22 PM

From Boots to Books: UST Supports Student Veterans

Students congregate in the lobby of the Veterans Success Center.Every day, University of St. Thomas further strengthens its support for veterans seeking quality higher education. Among the most military-friendly campuses anywhere, UST established a robust resource center, a national association chapter, and is moving forward with exciting initiatives to address housing needs and food scarcity concerns.

A driving force for the ambitious vision is Trisha Ruiz, a veteran herself, and director for UST’s Veteran Services.

Ruiz said, “We’re assisting veterans in clearing hurdles to their academic success and beyond. When we connect them to the available resources for financial backing and provide academic and personal counseling and support, they’re empowered to accomplish their dreams.”

A Space for Building Community

Inside the handsome Veteran Success Center, located at 4219 Yoakum, student veterans experience community among individuals who understand how challenging re-entry can be. The center offers a study room and an eat-in kitchen with complimentary snacks. Private offices provide settings where veterans can meet with representatives of visiting organizations such as Wounded Warrior Project, the US Department of Veteran Affairs, and free legal aid groups.

UST has 137 enrolled, military-connected students, including spouses and children of veterans.

Dedicated Housing

Jay Hernandez, assistant director for the program and a strong advocate for its services, said, “By August, we plan to have completed renovations to the back half of the center, which will be a dedicated residence for a limited number of qualifying veterans.”

More Tools and Resources

Meanwhile, UST now has its own Student Veterans Association, a chapter of the national Student Veterans of America.

“This is yet another means for social interaction, sharing ideas, and asking questions,” Hernandez added.

Leadership for the UST chapter recently returned from a national conference, ready to implement more programs for the group.

Addressing Food Scarcity

Last but not least, the Veteran Success Center’s planned Celt Pantry will be open to all students who face food scarcity concerns — helping to combat a problem acknowledged by campus leaders across the nation. As soon as it’s prudent, the center will organize activities to stock the pantry.

These exciting initiatives send a message loud and clear.

Ruiz said, “We want veterans to know they have a true friend in UST.”