USC Student Affairs launched the new Transfer and Veteran Student Programs office this year in an effort to better serve the two populations on campus, university officials said.
“The biggest thing for the university is to become a transfer and veteran student-friendly campus,” said Syreeta Greene, assistant director of Transfer and Veteran Student Programs. “This is a really good start.”
The new office will serve as a resource hub for transfer and military veteran students and host a variety of events to help build the community and relationships among the students, Greene said.
“A big thing is — for any student — knowing what your niche is,” Greene said. “Right now, our focus is to create a community, to create a niche for these students.”
Student Affairs created one office for transfer and veteran students because the two populations often share similar experiences and challenges while adapting to a large university setting.
“Transfer and veteran students, many times, they’re older or they’ve been out of school for a while,” Greene said. “In the shuffle of life, they’re trying to succeed as first-time freshmen, but with other challenges.”
Such challenges can range from commuting to school to supporting a family, Greene said.
“Now, they know that there’s one person and one program that they can come to,” said Greene, who said her office on the third floor of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center is always open.
Veteran students who attended TVSP’s first event, the Veteran Student Welcome on Tuesday, said they are glad to have a number of readily available resources together in one place.
“I was really interested in disability services. This was a great opportunity to come meet them,” said Charlie Brenes, a veteran and junior majoring in psychology. “This time around, I’m trying to be very proactive.”
At the welcome event, student veterans mingled with other student veterans, met Greene and visited a variety of tables with representatives from the Department of Veteran Affairs, the SC Veterans Club, the L.A. County Department of Veteran Affairs and other organizations and resources on campus and in the greater Los Angeles area.
Alan Takagi, an Iraq war veteran and senior majoring in history, said he has seen a dramatic change in the university’s attention toward veterans since he started taking classes in the fall of 2005.
“I didn’t find one thing that connected me,” Takagi said. “When you’re talking to a bunch of 18-year-olds about war … it’s not very personal.”
But Takagi said that his feeling on campus has now changed.
“What I’ve noticed the past couple of years is that USC is acknowledging that there are more veterans coming in,” Takagi said. “There’s been an understanding that we need to give them attention.”
In 2008, about 80 veteran students enrolled at USC, said Robert Morley, associate registrar for the Academic Records and Registrar department. This year 421 veteran students are enrolled, and Morley expects that number to grow to about 500 in coming weeks.
Morley conducted a study of resources available to veterans on campus last year after Provost Elizabeth Garrett asked if the university was doing everything possible to best serve those who had served in the military, he said.
“In the end, it was very clear that we weren’t doing nearly enough for our veterans,” said Morley, who also looked at veteran resources and services at about 50 other universities during the study.
One of the chief recommendations of the study was that Student Affairs create a new support resource for veterans, said Michael Jackson, vice president of Student Affairs.
“It wasn’t until we did a study to find out what was actually needed did we realize we needed to put an office together,” Jackson said.
The university also identified a need to provide transfer students with similar services, so Student Affairs decided to combine them, Jackson said.
“We’re excited about getting the program off this year,” Jackson said. “We’ll learn more over the next several years to make sure that we have a good understanding of what veteran students need and what transfer students need.”