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Student veterans get stronger campus voice with new SGA position

The 956 student veterans and their families on MTSU’s campus finally have an official voice in student government.

The Student Government Association formally created a Veteran Senator position at the beginning of the spring semester and hosted its first election this semester for the new position as well.

Sociology major and student veteran Sean Anthony Martin, who was appointed to be the first veteran senator late in the fall 2015 semester, has relished in serving his peers.

Sean Martin

Sean Martin

“It’s really been fascinating to see how so many people are concerned about their representation in the SGA now,” said Martin, a U.S. Marine veteran from Smyrna, Tennessee. “It’s something we haven’t had before and it’s great.”

Martin has already been a key figure on campus working in the new Veterans and Military Family Center, which opened in November in renovated space on the first floor of Keathley University Center

It was his time there, along with his participation on Gov. Bill Haslam’s task force for veterans’ education, that made him the most logical option as the initial appointment to represent student veterans on the SGA, said Dr. Hillary Miller, director of the Veterans and Military Family Center.

Lindsey Pierce

Lindsey Pierce

Dr. Hilary Miller

Dr. Hilary Miller

“One of the things I love about Sean is how he sees the big picture. He understands policy,” Miller said. “His work on the governor’s task force was about creating policies for veterans. He has the mind for this, and it’s been a perfect fit.”

SGA President Lindsey Pierce played a vital role in aggressively creating the position with input from Miller. The two have been working on the position since spring 2015.

“Our student veterans have been involved in the SGA for years, but always wanted a formal position,” Miller added. “After (Pierce) was elected, she really made this an initiative and reached out to us and we said we wanted a seat and she did as well.”

The two worked diligently to create the seat and getting it approved by SGA senators. Miller then approached Martin, who quickly accepted the appointment to serve until SGA elections this spring.

With just one semester on the job, Martin has worked to make sure his short term is successful. His main project has been to work on the addition of another seat to the SGA, this time for disabled students including some veterans.SGA official seal

“I think us (veterans) coming into the programs as nontraditional students, sometimes we’re behind the curve. We hear the term ‘disabled’ a lot, especially with Veterans Affairs. I’ve sat down with other senators and we’ve all agreed we need to facilitate an ‘accessibility’ senate seat,” said Martin.

Martin thinks an accessibility seat would help bridge the gap between traditional and nontraditional students as well as force an open conversation about the needs of disabled students that may not otherwise be had.

Martin will graduate in May and three students are on the spring SGA election ballot to be the next veteran senator. SGA elections are being held April 11-14 to elect the executive officers and senators, with results expected to be released sometime during the next week.

For more information on the veteran senator position and the Veterans and Military Family Center, contact Dr. Hillary Miller at Hilary.Miller@mtsu.edu.

For more information about the SGA, visit www.mtsu.edu/sga.

— Steven Michael Johnson (news@mtsu.edu)