Student veterans lounge slated for spring opening

A new lounge for student veterans in the former Administration building is expected for completion late in the spring semester.

Larry Braue, director of Veterans Services, said the idea for creating the lounge has been ongoing since last year.

“A lot of different universities have veterans’ lounges,” he said. “San Diego State actually has a house, and Rutgers has a house for veterans, a similar place where they can go. So we’ve been talking to the administration, and we have full support from (Jennifer) Meningall and President (Judy) Genshaft and the Provost (Ralph Wilcox) to have this lounge.”

More than 1,400 students use Veterans Services, he said, and most of them are commuter students. The lounge will provide a place for them to interact with one another.

Kiera Coote, a graduate student studying criminal justice administration and an army veteran, said veterans still feel the need to mingle.

“I’d really like to see the lounge become a place where veterans can kind of come together, especially the ones that feel out of place here on campus,” she said. “I really think they need to feel that camaraderie again. That’s the one main thing we miss coming out of the military and transitioning in. Especially being an older student, you come to campus and you’re around 18-year-olds, and you don’t really feel like you have a lot in common with them.”

The 800-square-foot lounge will have computers, study rooms, a refrigerator, chairs and a conference room for the USF Student Veterans Association to conduct meetings.

All veterans will have access to the lounge, including those not receiving benefits from Veterans Services.

Braue said the biggest obstacle in creating the lounge was finding a location for it. Yet, when the Cashier’s Office moved to the Student Services building this fall, Veterans Services moved its offices to the Administration building, which became the natural fit for the lounge.

Braue said he hopes the move allows more students to use Veterans Services as a resource.

“The guys that are coming in and have struggles with academics or just getting used to the campus environment, if they come into our office, we’re able to help them,” he said. “But there’s a lot of them that won’t come into our office and don’t want to ask for help. So those are the guys that, a lot of times, if they have a buddy that says, ‘Hey, I’ve had that same issue and I went over there and talked to (Veterans Services)’ – we can help them.

“That was the big thing with this lounge and having our offices co-located with the lounge. All they can say is, ‘Hey, go next door and talk to Tony, he can help you out with that’ or ‘Why don’t you go next door and talk to Larry? He can help you.'”

Costs of the lounge have not been estimated, but funding is largely coming from donors and private funding such as Birdies for the Brave, a military outreach initiative, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Aaron’s has already donated some furniture for the lounge, including chairs, tables, a conference table and a refrigerator. USF will cover the expenses for the relocation of the offices.

Facilities Planning and Construction is in the beginning stages of drawing up construction plans, getting bids from contractors, making a contracting time line and figuring out the anticipated cost sof the lounge. Construction will begin after winter break, with the building’s completion expected for late March.