Expanding the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center will further help veterans — on campus and in the community — in making the transition from the military to civilian life.
MTSU held a ribbon-cutting for the Daniels Center Veterans Transitioning Home Tuesday, Feb. 14, in Keathley University Center Room 316, thanks to repurposed office space donated by MTSU’s Division of Student Affairs. Activities during the event also took place in KUC Theater and the Daniels Center in KUC 124.
The nearly 600-square-foot Veterans Transitioning Home facility will allow Shane Smith, interim employer search agent, and recent MTSU graduate and transition manager Sean Martin to match veterans and other MTSU students with prospective employers. Smith and Martin also are veterans.
If student veterans’ matches don’t fit, they will collaborate with the MTSU Career Development Center to help land jobs for other MTSU students.
The new addition ties in to the center’s “E” mission — enroll student veterans and family members, encourage them while at MTSU, assist with employment, educate the university community and expand the veteran-education knowledge base, officials said.
“The annex we open today is the next logical step in that philosophy of proactive service for our student veterans,” university President Sidney A. McPhee said.
“Through the generosity of Mr. (Charlie) Daniels and The Journey Home Project, and a grant given to MTSU by Gov. (Bill) Haslam and Mike Krause, this additional space will be the bridge between our student veterans and businesses who want to hire graduates with strong academic credentials and proven leadership abilities,” McPhee added.
Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and a veteran himself as a member of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, has made a number of visits to MTSU since Haslam named him to lead THEC in 2016.
“Today’s dedication of the Daniels Veterans Transitioning Home is another tangible step by MTSU to support our veterans and military connected students,” Krause said. “As we continue to find ways to serve those who have served the country, MTSU’s efforts are an example to the rest of the nation.”
Dr. Hilary Miller, director of the Daniels Center, said the new office area is courtesy of Dr. Deb Sells, vice president of student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services.
The additional space “is a wonderful gift from Dr. Sells,” said Miller, referring to the room formerly used by College of Basic and Applied Sciences advisers.
“We also want retirees to know they, too, can come here and we will help them transition to civilian life … even if they are not an MTSU student.”
Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, and David Corlew with The Journey Home Project also spoke at the event.
“Once they achieve their degree, what do they do in their next chapter?” Huber said. “This will assist veterans in their transition. It serves the community and businesses.”
Musician Charlie Daniels is chairman of the Journey Home board. Through the veterans’ endeavor, he and his wife, Hazel, have donated $125,000 to the MTSU veterans center.
“This is a wonderful experience,” Corlew said. “It’s Valentine’s Day and there’s a room full of love and compassion. The music was unbelievable. … This is the final piece, to take a veteran, help them, be there and let them know somebody cared. This is the journey. We want them to continue the journey.”
Operation Song co-founder Bob Regan and Cory Fischer performed veteran-inspired music, and MTSU senior Mary Vaughan sang the national anthem.
Representing Quilts of Valor, Jill Shaver, Janice Lewis and presenter Ginger Fondren gave handmade quilts to MTSU alumnus Terry “Max” Haston, adjutant general for the Tennessee National Guard; Jennifer Vedral-Baron, director of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and Krause.
Attendees also included Many-Bears Grinder, Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs commissioner, and numerous VA officials.
Two offices, a conference room and a reception room with two computers for students are part of the room’s configuration.
The 2,600-square-foot Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center opened on the first floor of the KUC in November 2015. It is a one-stop shop for MTSU’s approximately 1,000 student veterans and family members.
MTSU has the largest dedicated space for veterans on a Tennessee campus. Staff members assist student veterans with the transition into college, academic plans, career goals, G.I. Bill benefits and counseling needs.
To learn more about the center, its services and resources, visit www.mtsu.edu/military or call 615-904-8347.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)