Veterans Services has long had a presence on the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) campus, yet there’s newfound excitement brought to the program with the arrival of a new director.
Just this summer, this new director stepped into Roudebush Cottage with a purpose. LaChaune DuHart-Wood came to UNC with a drive to provide hands-on care and build a community for the veteran and military-affiliated students on campus.
“I wasn't really looking for a pay raise. I wasn't looking for a higher position. I was looking for somewhere I can provide clinical or transitional help to veterans in real-time, and that's the goal of this center,” said DuHart-Wood.
All those who work in Veterans Services share the same passion: to create a space on campus service members, veterans and their dependents can find community in. Members of the military are often required to move for their service, meaning that not only themselves, but their families must move too. Without their previous network of support, readjusting to their new location alongside the pressures of university can be taxing.
A dedicated space to bring service members and their families together to find a new support system can be essential to their success.
“Veterans Services helped immensely with my transition to student life, especially as a non-traditional student who felt like I was too old and out of the loop for college,” said Alyssa VanGorder, a student worker with Veteran Services and treasurer of UNC’s chapter of Student Veterans of America.
VanGorder is one of Veterans Services new staff who is helping to foster a student-first atmosphere within the department. She notes that military dependents actually make up the majority of the military-affiliated population here at UNC, bringing their own unique perspective.
“Whatever that connection to the military looks like, each military-affiliated student at UNC has a place here at Veterans Services,” said VanGorder.
Another student involved with Veterans Services and president of UNC’s chapter of Student Veterans of America, Adam Roberts, explained that there are many ways veteran students serve. In his case, as a non-traditional transfer student who has served in the military for 20 years, he’s lived what it means to dedicate his life to serving, whether it be through pursuing an education, community service or being present for someone to talk.
At the end of the day though, veterans on campus are really just like any other student pursuing their degree.
“Veteran students are just a group of people that love to have fun,” said Roberts.
UNC celebrates its veteran and military-affiliated students with events like its Freedom 5K to gather not only this population of students, but the entire Bear Network to show appreciation for their service. As DuHart-Wood puts it, it’s the entire community coming to create a sense of camaraderie and demonstrate veteran’s community worth.
“The community is showing they appreciate [veterans] for what they've done in the past and they want to celebrate their accomplishments. And then the same for us, it allows us to celebrate the community, accepting us back into civilian world because that's a part of our transition: becoming a civilian again,” said DuHart-Wood.
Join the UNC campus community and the Veterans Services team on Saturday, Nov. 18, at 9 a.m. to run, walk or roll through the Freedom 5K celebrating military-affiliated students and alumni. The event is open to the public and proceeds will go to the UNC Veterans Scholarship Fund. Stay after to attend the UNC versus Portland State military appreciation tailgate and football game.