Veterans center celebrates first year

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center, which opened in the Memorial Union in August, has helped many veteran students adapt to college life. (Photo by Jenn Allen)

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center bustled with activity Monday afternoon as it nears the completion of its first full academic year on campus.

The center, located in the basement of the Memorial Union, opened in August to provide ASU’s growing population of veteran students with academic and personal counseling.

The center helped biochemistry senior Luis Mariscal register for classes and ensure his veterans’ benefits covered his tuition.

“They’re definitely helpful,” Mariscal said. “They explain things you’d have to look for on the website for hours.”

Josh Robertson, who will begin studying accountancy at ASU in the summer, was at the center Monday to enroll in classes.

Robertson said the process was a lot easier than he thought it would be, especially after his experience with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He was able to finish enrolling and pay his tuition in about 30 minutes.

“They really make it as painless as possible to work with the VA, which can be pretty slow-moving,” Robertson said.

Aaron Knighten, another prospective student, has visited the Tillman Center several times throughout the year to meet with fellow veterans.

Knighten, a Gulf War veteran, plans to finish his engineering degree at ASU this year. He said he would likely visit the center more often as a student.

“I really like being able to come down here and run into other guys who have served,” Knighten said. “All military has camaraderie.”

Justice studies freshman Matthew Guardiola said he visits the center at least three days a week to talk with fellow veterans.

He said the Tillman Center’s construction was one of the reasons he came to ASU, because they helped him register for classes and collect the military benefits he needed to pay tuition.

“The staff here is stellar,” Guardiola said. “They’ve pretty much got it all right now.”

Communication and religious studies senior Ben Bronson said the center had done a lot for veterans but could still improve.

He has been a student at ASU since 2005, when he returned from the Iraq war.

In 2005, veterans had one window in the student services building where they could register for classes and collect military benefits.

“This has just been a huge step in the right direction,” Bronson said.

He’s now working to create a nonprofit start-up company, Veterans Now, which would work with ASU and the Tillman Center to further help veterans adapt to life on campus.

Veterans Now would put new veterans through a different type of basic training, Bronson said. He said military training often made it difficult for veterans to adapt to civilian life again.

One aspect of the adaptation would be creating student housing specifically for veterans. Bronson said he hoped ASU would consider creating veteran housing on Alpha Drive off of Veteran’s Way.

He said the center or ASU should offer more career services to help veterans translate their military service into skills they could list on résumés.

“I’m really proud of ASU for all that it’s done to help veterans,” Bronson said.

Reach the reporter at julia.shumway@asu.edu

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