La Plata Campus Veterans Lounge Provides Gathering Place for Student Veterans
Members of the College of Southern Maryland Veterans Organization envisioned a place on campus where students who are active-duty or who have served in the military could gather, connect with fellow military veterans and study. With a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the La Plata Campus Veterans Lounge Nov. 9 in the Learning Resources Center, their vision became a reality.
CSM, with more than 786 students using Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) education benefits, ranks fourth in the state for colleges serving current and former military service members and their families.
“My studies of the Civil War have instilled in me a strong sense of gratitude for all the contributions of those who have served in the military,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried. “I care deeply about our veterans and it is an honor to be able to recognize our veterans and students, and to honor and celebrate their contributions and sacrifices.”
Within the state of Maryland, Southern Maryland has among the highest proportion of veterans when compared to its adult population within St. Mary's, Charles and Calvert counties. Approximately 57,361 of Southern Maryland residents are veterans, according to the National Association of Counties Analysis of U.S. Census Bureau statistics for 2013.
“We wanted to create a place where student veterans could come together to support each other. The lounge has computers, worktables, a SmartPodium for lectures and group meetings, and big comfy chairs,” said CSM Veterans Organization President Mike Moses. “It was through support from CSM administration that this idea was realized.”
“Student veterans, who are transitioning from a military culture where discipline and precision is required, look to their institution to help them transition to an academic culture where diversity of ideas, individualism and creativity are encouraged. Veteran students are dealing with other issues as well, including self-identification on campus. They don't want to be labeled or stand out as representing an event that took place while serving, but they also don't want to try to blend in with students who just graduated from high school and have no experiences outside of their hometown,” said CSM Veterans Organization Vice President Bill Buffington on the importance of place on campus where they can find support from others who have served in the military.
The lounge is available to all veteran students who register with the organization to receive access.
This fall, CSM earned the 2016 Military Friendly® School Designation from Victory Media for attracting and supporting student veterans and spouses who are transitioning from the military to civilian workforce. The college is approved by the VA and the Maryland Higher Education Commission, so that eligible veterans, servicepersons and certain dependents of veterans can receive VA educational benefits for credit certificate and associate degree programs as well as some Workforce Development programs. CSM's outreach includes an active student veterans' organization, which is a chapter of Student Veterans Association, a non-profit coalition of more than 700 student veteran organizations on college campuses globally with a mission to provide military veterans with the resources, support and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation. The organization is an inclusive, non-partisan group that supports all CSM student veterans and their dependents associated with all branches of the uniformed military services.
For information on Veteran and Military Support Services, visit www.csmd.edu/veterans.
For a gallery of photos from the ribbon-cutting ceremony, visit http://csmphoto.zenfolio.com/vetsloungerc.