With a goal of creating convenient access to resources, and a sense of belonging for military veterans interested in pursuing health science degrees, the University of Arizona established the Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) Center at the Arizona Health Sciences Center.
The new center will complement the existing VETS Center, located in the Student Union Memorial Center on the UA main campus.
Housed in the Arizona Health Sciences Library, the new AHSC VETS Center will host a grand opening this Thursday, April 10, from 4-5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
“The University of Arizona and the health-based educational programs at the Arizona Health Sciences Center recognize and greatly appreciate the service and sacrifice of our veterans,” said Todd D. Camenisch, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology. “This new VETS Center is one small way for us to dedicate ourselves to ensuring their success in pursuing their dreams, which they have nobly earned.”
Cody Nicholls, assistant dean for VETS, said the new center will offer many of the same services provided for veterans at the main campus VETS center. However, the AHSC VETS Center will have additional resources geared toward those pursuing careers in health care.
At the AHSC VETS Center, trained staff, who are also veterans, will offer individualized service and tailored resources to help student veterans improve their experience and success on the health sciences campus. The center's hours will vary based on need, but Nicholls said the plan is that it will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and be staffed by trained student veterans.
“The opening of the AHSC VETS Center is the beginning of a synergy that will coordinate the work of the VETS Center on the main campus, the new AHSC VETS Center, our medical vets, our Tillman Military Scholars, and all of our students currently studying in the AHSC colleges,” Nicholls said.
Over the past 13 years, UA student veteran enrollment has grown 83 percent. With the fall 2013 enrollment, the UA's undergraduate and graduate student veteran enrollment reached 1,197.
In that time, the UA VETS Center has become a national model for engaging student veterans on college campuses, thanks to the collaboration of University employees, student veterans and other partners, both on and off campus. Student veteran leaders helped build the center into a nationally recognized model after finding themselves transitioning from combat to classroom.
“When I got out of the military, I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I didn’t want to fail,” said David Ross, a junior in the UA College of Nursing who works at the new AHSC VETS Center. “It is good to have a place with resources, as many of us in the military have been out of school five, six and even 30 years. Our main mission is to help people be successful.”
The new AHSC VETS Center is made possible thanks to a joint venture between the VETS Center on the main campus and representatives from AHSC. Special acknowledgment goes to the AHS Library and UA Facilities Management teams, led by Gary Freiburger and Chris Kopach respectively, who worked seamlessly to quickly address the pressing need; the leadership of Melissa Vito, UA vice provost for academic initiatives and student success and senior vice president for student affairs and enrollment management; Dr. J. Lyle Bootman, dean of the College of Pharmacy and a professor of pharmacy, medicine and public health; and Dr. Joe G.N. "Skip" Garcia, UA senior vice president for health sciences, who made the vision of an AHSC VETS Center a reality.