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Saturday May 28th

The Carolina Veterans Center is a space for student veterans to gather

The Carolina Veterans Resource Center opened on Sept. 28.
Buy Photos The Carolina Veterans Resource Center opened on Sept. 28.

The transition from high school to university life is hard enough for new college students, but for student veterans who have been out of school for several years, these challenges are even more complex.

The Carolina Veterans Resource Center officially opened on Sept. 28, providing student veterans a space to gather. The facility is complete with a study space, lounge, conference meeting space and lactation room for student veterans to use whenever they please.

The Carolina Veterans Resource Center was part of a vision of Trustee Haywood Cochrane. As an active advocate for student veterans, Cochrane recognized the need for a centralized location where veterans could access resources to guide their academic journey. After receiving direct input from student veterans, Cochrane began crafting a plan for a space dedicated to satisfy their needs. 

After several years of advocating for a center, an opportunity opened up when Odum Village was shut down in the fall of 2015. Amber Mathwig, the student veterans assistance coordinator at UNC, was delighted to receive the news that the University had set aside a former Odum Village building for the Veterans Resource Center. She was then given the green light to add onto the original plans that Cochrane and his team mapped out, allowing her to assist in developing the design for the facility.

Mathwig works directly with student veterans to assure that their transition from service to the classroom is smooth. With 10 years of service in the Navy under her belt, Mathwig understands the unique experience that student veterans have. 

“The University and the military are both very bureaucratic, but they’re bureaucratic in different ways,” Mathwig said. “In the military, you get a lot of stuff done simply by going to one or two offices and that’s not how the University functions at all. And that’s a very frustrating process, especially when you’ve matured into an adult through the military.”

Sophomore Frankie Burgos was a marine stationed in Southern California for four years. He looks back on his days as a marine fondly and agrees that it can be tough to lose a sense of unity that is so strong in the military. 

“People could go into academia and they can be like, ‘Yeah, I’m glad I’m getting out of the military,’ but they may not realize what they’re leaving behind,” Burgos said. 

Junior Doug Yorty had a different experience than Burgos. After dropping out of school, he joined the military and served as an infantry solider for seven years. He was drawn by the idea of serving his country and traveling the world. Although he was originally set on serving in the military for 20 years, he left after seven and decided to go to college.

“Naturally, I was very scared getting out of the military because I had a very promising future,” Yorty said. “I hadn’t been in school for 11 years. I mean, I went to school online, but not the rigors of having a full course load, and the standards are higher. But I think my experience in the military caused me to have a very meaningful learning experience.”

Beyond attending the University as a student, there are other ways to stay involved in the veteran community at UNC. David Rogers, a former U.S. Army Specialist and the director of the Carolina Outdoor Education Center, serves on the Veterans Resource Team. Although Rogers does not have experience as a student veteran, he identifies as a veteran employee and supports his fellow veterans who pursue higher education at the UNC.

“I think as one of the many members of the group at large, we sort of advocate for and work toward making sure that the veteran experience on campus is a positive one,” he said.

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