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Penn State set to open new Student Veteran Center

It’s important for our student veterans to feel like they’re part of the overall fabric of the campus community

Eugene McFeely

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With the official ribbon cutting slated for Nov. 15, Penn State’s student veterans will have a new place to call home at the University Park campus.

Over the past year, construction crews have been working to renovate Ritenour Building, originally built in 1929, to house the Student Veteran Center.

“The goal, the vision is that the Student Veteran Center will become the hub of activity and community for student veterans,” said Eugene McFeely, Penn State’s senior director for veteran affairs and services.

The new 6,300 square-foot center consolidates and expands services, support and activities for student veterans in a central location on campus. The $4 million center will serve as the home of the Office of Veterans Programs, which provides assistance with GI Bill® benefits, transition-to-college programs, peer-to-peer mentoring and support, and counseling resources. The Office of Veterans Affairs and Services, which provides overall leadership in the development, planning, execution and coordination of veteran programs and services across the entire University, also will be located in Ritenour Building.

The renovated facility includes a student veteran lounge, a student veteran study area, and multi-use rooms that will provide space for student veteran organizations, support groups and programming.

The goal, the vision is that the Student Veteran Center will become the hub of activity and community for student veterans.

Eugene McFeely

“Having a veterans center is a huge benefit for us,” said Kyle Larson, president of the Penn State Student Veteran Organization and a student veteran majoring in labor and employment relations. “I can see a lot of student veterans using the group study rooms to study and then stepping into the lounge to take a break. I can also see some student veterans using the smaller office spaces to tutor or informally counsel other vets in need.”

For McFeely, it was critical to not only create a “one-stop shop” for student veterans, but to locate it within the heart of campus.

“It’s important for our student veterans to feel like they’re part of the overall fabric of the campus community,” McFeely said. “This new space will allow student veterans to build a greater sense of community and greater opportunities for peer-to-peer engagement.”

Larson said, “The new veterans center will have an office space for student veteran organizations to meet, which is very beneficial to me as the president of the veterans organization on campus. This will be the first time all student-veteran organizations can be found under one roof and have a shared space to work together and share new ideas.”

McFeely added that the Ritenour location provides student veterans easy access to additional campus resources, including numerous academic units, academic advising, tutoring, career services, disability services, accessible parking, and Counseling and Psychological Services, all of which are essential to student veteran success.

Larson agreed, saying, “Now with the upgraded facilities and central location, we get the best of both worlds.”

McFeely sees the new center as not only a place for student veterans at University Park campus, but for Penn State student veterans everywhere.

More than 400 student veterans are currently enrolled at the University Park campus, with more than 5,000 at Penn State Commonwealth Campuses across the state, including World Campus.

“Even though physically located here at University Park, I envision that we’ll reach all of the campuses,” he said. “The idea is that we will use the center as a hub or magnet to pull people and resources in, and then project them out in some way, shape or form.”

For example, McFeely said a corporation may come to the center to conduct resume writing classes. The classes could be live-streamed to student veterans at the Commonwealth Campuses. Career fairs could be held virtually, with student veterans from all Penn State locations participating without having to travel to University Park.

Although the ribbon will be officially cut this week to coincide with Penn State’s Military Appreciation Week events, McFeely said work remains on a number of fronts.

He said the University has provided half of the $4 million needed to renovate the building, and donors have contributed $1.2 million toward the center, leaving about $800,000 left to be raised.

McFeely said construction is slated for completion in the spring.

“About two-thirds of the center is complete,” he said. “The other portion — the other third — which is conference rooms, the remainder of the study areas, will open up sometime in April 2020.”

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