ashland.news
July 23, 2024

SOU, RCC get Oregon Veterans Affairs grants to expand resource centers for students

Carrie Vath, Southern Oregon University dean of students, talks about a grant from the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs inside the Veterans Resource Center at SOU. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
November 9, 2023

SOU funding to expand wellness programming and build out more academic support services

By Kevin Opsahl, Rogue Valley Times

Rogue Community College student Matt Moser calls joining the U.S. Navy the most spontaneous yet fulfilling decision he’s ever made.

However, it gave him pause when he considered if military service prepared him for life as a student who hopes to earn his associate of arts degree at RCC before transferring to Portland State University to earn a degree in social work. 

“The military does a good job at indoctrinating you into the service, but there could be some improvements on transitioning you out into the civilian world,” Moser said in an interview Tuesday from Rogue Community College’s Redwood Campus in Grants Pass. “You don’t learn from the Navy, when you’re getting out, ‘Hey, these are things that exist.’ You just know you can go to school and you’ll figure it out when you get there.”

Moser said since enrolling at RCC in 2022, he’s learning every day about the resources available to student veterans. But one he is familiar with is the Military Resource Center, which is what it is today because of grant funding from the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. 

From 2017-23, RCC received $212,550 from the agency to expand the center. On Nov. 1, ODVA announced it was awarding the community college an additional $98,609 over the next two years — part of a $1 million package to 14 colleges and universities throughout the state, including Southern Oregon University, to expand their veterans resource centers.

The next grant cycle begins Dec. 1 and runs until June 30, 2025. While the funds for each institution will pay for many different initiatives, one both RCC and SOU will include is “Green Zone training,” a national effort aimed at educating faculty and staff on ways they can help the student veteran population.

Moser, who works as a peer advisor at RCC’s Military Resource Center, said he is “excited” to see what the coming grant cycle can accomplish.

“I’m thankful that we’ve received the grant and I am just looking forward to seeing how we put that to use,” Moser said. “I trust the people (at RCC) that make those decisions.”

Steve Vandever, military coordinator at Rogue Community College, speaks Tuesday about a grant from the Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs inside the Military Resource Center on the RCC Redwood campus in Grants Pass. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
RCC Military Resource Center 

Officials who help run RCC’s Military Resource Center say what it used to be was a place even student veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder shied away from.

“It was too small. There was only one window, and it was daunting for them,” said Nikki Johnson, director of advising and military services at RCC.

A underutilized cafe was transformed into the current Military Resource Center using $100,000 from ODVA during the first round of grant funding for the community college in 2017.

With that, the Military Resource Center was tripled in size and outfitted with new carpeting, furniture and computers.

“Anyone is welcome; you don’t have to be a veteran,” Johnson said. 

Steven Vandever, military coordinator who is also an RCC alumnus, called the center “a one-stop-shop” for veterans’ needs.

“When they leave here, they feel not only comfortable, but also (feel) like ‘I can come back here and keep asking questions,'” Vandever said. 

Johnson said the latest round of grant funding will help pay for new activities for student veterans clubs and organizations; the salary of a military student program specialist; and the peer advisor veterans education program.

“It’s a program where any veteran … can have a direct relationship with one of our student workers,” Vandever said of the the latter program, which goes by the acronym PAVE. (The program) tries to build rapport with them so they are more comfortable coming into campus.”

SOU Veterans Resource Center

SOU’s Veterans Resource Center, on the third floor of the Stevenson Union, has received ODVA grant money since 2020, using over $126,000 from the agency to expand programming for veterans and even spruce up its resource center, bringing in new amenities like a massage chair. 

But with $52,731 more to spend over the next two years from funding that was announced Nov. 1, SOU Dean of Students Carrie Vath seeks to spend the funds “thoughtfully and intentionally.”

The focus of the funds will shift to wellness programming and building out more academic support services. These include 24/7 online tutoring, which will launch in January. The service will augment existing tutoring services at SOU, according to Vath.

“We’re going to be partnering with an external vendor that is just fantastic — they have over 250 courses and subjects that students can access,” she said. “Having this 24/7 online tutoring is really going to help them have that quality time with their family or loved ones and still be able to focus on school.”

SOU also plans to offer at least four opportunities for engagement, from off-campus pizza parties to events on Veterans and Memorial Day. The grant funds will also compensate student veterans who work at the resource center.

Vath hopes the current veterans resource center helps current student veterans “feel seen and valued.”

Reporter Kevin Opsahl can be reached at 458-488-2034 or kopsahl@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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