Florida State University President Eric J. Barron and the Florida State chapter of the Collegiate Veterans Association (CVA) today announced several new initiatives that will help the university in its efforts to become the most veteran-friendly public university in the nation.
The initiatives are designed to provide support and services to assist veterans in their transition to college and successful pursuit of a degree. To launch the initiatives, a special Veterans Day screening of "Hell and Back Again," directed by Danfung Dennis, will make its Southeast premiere at Florida State’s Ruby Diamond Concert Hall on Nov. 11. The film is a 2011 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prizewinner.
"With nearly 25 percent of recently-separated-from-the-military veterans enrolling in college within two years, the need for support and assistance in the transition from military service to college student is obvious," Barron said. "Although FSU is already recognized as a ‘Military Friendly School,’ we want to do more for our student-veterans, while raising awareness about their educational needs and service to our country among the student body in general."
The new initiatives include:
- Establishing a Florida State Veterans Center, which will reach veterans of all generations. The center will serve as the focal point for all campus veteran resources, academic advising, orientation and transition programming, personal and rehabilitative support services, and assistance with VA educational benefits and certification.
- Hiring a director of the Florida State Veterans Center, who will implement the center’s mission to recruit veterans who want to transition from military service to college life; support veterans by coordinating services; and promote awareness of Florida State’s veteran heritage and current issues facing student-veterans. In addition, the director will promote Florida State’s veteran-friendly initiatives nationally.
- Launching an annual Student Veteran Film Festival to raise awareness of veterans’ issues and support the establishment of a veterans center. This year’s screening of "Hell and Back Again," which will benefit the proposed veterans center, will set the stage for what will become a multifilm event in future years.
"These initiatives are important because nationally veterans are graduating at a lesser rate than nonveterans," said Jared Lyon, president of the CVA and a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where he served on multiple deployments around the globe from 2001 to 2005. "As an institution for higher learning, it is our responsibility to ensure that student-veterans have the resources available to them to be successful in their goal of achieving a college degree."
Because veterans tend to be older students — the average age of a student-veteran at FSU is 27 — they have been out of the academic environment for a greater period of time and often struggle with transition and isolation. In addition, some may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or physical limitations.
Florida State is unique among universities because of the depth and scope of services it intends to offer, Lyon said.
"Not only is Florida State going to provide the services needed by student-veterans, the university also is going to try to identify the reasons behind these lower graduation rates while focusing on making the campus a more inviting and welcoming environment for veterans past, present and future," he said.
Plans are under way to build a 35,000-square-foot building located on Jefferson Street near the Varsity Way roundabout. The proposal calls for bringing the Florida State Veterans Center, ROTC offices and a World War II museum together into one facility that would promote collaboration. In the meantime, the Pearl Tyner House at the Florida State Alumni Association complex on West Tennessee Street will serve as the center’s temporary home. It will open its doors today and will be available to students from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
A university advisory board recommended establishing a center and hiring a director to oversee the center and services. Barron appointed the advisory board in spring 2011 after Lyon and several members of the CVA approached him about the need for improved support and services for veterans and their dependents at the university.
It was the students, however, who came up with the idea of hosting an annual film festival that is perhaps the first in the nation to be devoted to veterans issues. Florida State Interfraternity Council President David Ward approached Lyon about developing an event to support student-veterans, and soon the Student Veteran Film Festival was born.
The film follows the life of 25-year-old U.S. Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris as he confronts the physical and emotional difficulties of readjusting to civilian life after his time fighting and being wounded in Afghanistan. Tickets for the event are $10 for Florida State students and $30 for the general public. To purchase a ticket, visit www.fsuvetfilmfest.com.