University of Washington’s Steps to Welcome Student Veterans

Dr. Samantha Powers, Director of Student Veteran Life, University of Washington

November 7, 2017

To many, veterans are the men and women who have worn the uniform of our armed forces. These men and women have experienced some of the most poignant moments any human can. In addition to their unique experiences, veterans have a specific set of skills, learned through military service. When these skills and experiences are coupled with formal education through degree-granting higher education institutions, veteran graduates leave prepared to be powerful citizens and members of our community, ripe for promising careers and meaningful impact.

As educators, it is our duty to truly honor the skills and experiences of our veterans by dedicating ourselves to continuing to learn about the inherent transition process and the challenges and barriers that veterans face in the classroom and beyond. We can acknowledge these experiences in concrete ways and incorporate this knowledge and these skills into our daily routines. We do this as members of the faculty, staff, and community.

So what are we doing at the University of Washington to impact the lives of veterans? In January of 2016, the Seattle campus opened the Student Veteran Life office. Located in the Husky Union Building, we provide one of the only spaces on campus dedicated specifically to student veterans. Our staff seeks to provide meaningful programs and services to our students through emphasizing the importance of fitness, mindfulness, and mental health in our Whole Veteran Initiative as well as the value of the veteran community through our community building initiatives such as this program and Veterans Appreciation as a whole. Finally, we work with staff and faculty to train and educate about the challenges that student veterans face in their respective transitions to the University. These types of programs are typical for campuses that are considered veteran-ready, and we are just one of many.

As a combat veteran who served in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, I can say that I would have immensely benefited from having a program like this while going through my post-military education.

It is time now for a shift in our focus from merely recruiting veteran students to our universities to guiding them through their entire time at University so that they may reach that ultimate goal of being a UW alum. Further, we need to develop programs that assist in career placement as well. We can do this by providing needed and meaningful services that enable the success of every student veteran, every step of the way. This is how we prepare them. This is how we develop professionals. This is how we impact and change our community. This is how we honor them. 

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