Passion, drive and enthusiasm. These are three words that best describe Andrew Holbert, the new coordinator of the Veteran Success Center. Holbert started working at Western in December 2015 and in just six short weeks he has transformed the Veteran Success Center into an inviting, calm, well-appointed and welcoming lounge for student veterans. He has worked feverishly alongside Cody Knight, the Student Veterans of America chapter president, to furnish the lounge with hot beverage dispensers, work stations, comfortable seating, reading materials and more. Holbert is a combat veteran himself and spent time serving in Iraq when he wasn’t stationed at Twentynine Palms in Southern California. To Holbert, providing a space for student veterans hits close to home and is something he cares passionately about provided his own experience in the service and dealing with the pressures and stress of being a non-traditional student and combat veteran. He recognizes the need and purpose for a Veteran Success Center and wants other student veterans to utilize the space and know what is available to them.
Although the Veteran Success Center has been available for several years, this is the first time in several years the coordinator position has been filled. Before Holbert came on board the position sat empty as did the space. Holbert transformed it to a space that beckons students to use it. The Veteran Success Center is meant as a resource for veteran students to study, relax, talk and commiserate with others who have been through similar experiences. They also want to help these students find resources they may need to be successful in school and, more broadly, in life.
Holbert transformed the VSC with little to no budget and has big plans for the space and goals for supporting veteran students. Some of his needs include having more work stations for students (like computers and tables). He would also like to develop a peer-to-peer mentoring program that would invite volunteer veterans to come and work with students to help remove any stumbling blocks WOU student veterans face. Funding and support from faculty and staff are also a major needs for the center as they move forward with plans of giving scholarships to student veterans, providing resources and updating spaces for increased privacy and to accomodate more people. Holbert says his goal is to “integrate, not isolate,” and provide an inclusive and conducive environment for student veterans.
If you would like to volunteer as a peer mentor or as a companion to student veterans, contact Andrew Holbert at 503-838-9246 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to donate to student veteran scholarships and support the Veteran Success Center, visit the WOU giving page and connect with VSC on Facebook. Thank you for your support and thank you to the Veterans and active duty military personnel!
Story by Emily Lafon, alumni relations coordinator