New Student Veteran Center in Summerfield Hall envisioned to support growing veteran population at KU; university a Top 10 school for vets

The Kansas University Student Veterans Lounge will close when the Burge Union, where it’s housed, is shuttered this spring.

But students who are veterans will get a new space just for them once the business school moves out of Summerfield Hall.

A planned 3,000-square-foot Student Veteran Center inside Summerfield is envisioned to be a “one stop shop” for student veterans and students who are family members of veterans, said Randy Masten, assistant director in KU’s Office of Graduate Military Programs. He said the center will house a new veterans lounge along with offices student veterans need to deal with academic and GI Bill paperwork.

Veterans are becoming an increasingly higher profile population at KU.

KU’s number of student veterans has tripled in the past four years, going from about 350 to about 1,000, Masten said. The number is anticipated to continue growing.

This week KU was named No. 10 best school in the country for veterans by the Military Times in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2016 rankings, KU announced on Tuesday.

Also according to KU, Victory Media named KU a Military Friendly School, and KU was designated a “Top School” in the 2016 Military Advanced Education and Transition Guide to Colleges and Universities research study, scheduled to be released in December.

Mike Denning, director of Graduate Military Programs, said the Student Veterans Center is hoped to help meet veteran students’ unique academic, psychological, social and job-seeking needs.

Veterans are nontraditional students — often older, first-generation college students who have family and job responsibilities beyond school, Denning said in a recent article in Jayhawk Salute, the KU Veterans Alumni Network newsletter.

“Some carry the invisible wounds of PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury),” Denning said. “They carry multiple ‘at risk’ attributes and often find themselves not fully prepared academically, culturally or psychologically to successfully navigate a complex university system or to immediately immerse themselves into the traditional campus lifestyle.”

The current 300-square-foot Student Veterans Lounge, on the upper level of Burge Union, opened on Veterans Day 2009 with a ceremony and reception, according to KU Memorial Unions. In addition to a table, chairs and sofa, it features computer workstations and a TV and DVD player.

The Burge Union will be razed and replaced with a new building nearby. The KU School of Business will move into Capitol Federal Hall — under construction now on Naismith Drive — in 2016.

Since the Summerfield space isn’t expected to be renovated and ready until 2017, Masten said, the veterans lounge will need a temporary home.

He said KU Unions is working to find a temporary location.

“There will be a place,” Masten said. “They are trying to find one that meets the needs and expectations of the Student Veterans Association.”

KU is looking to outside funding for the new Student Veterans Center, according to Jayhawk Salute. KU Endowment has created a fund with a goal of raising $300,000 for the center, and KU also was submitting a U.S. Department of Education grant proposal hoped to help fund the project.