CU students are working together to bring a sense of community and better rights for student veterans on campus.
John-Patrick Sansom, a senior political science major and veteran, and Mark Krzyzanowski, a freshman political science major, are starting a chapter of the Student Veterans of America at CU this spring. The new student group will work in coordination with the current Veterans Services Office on campus.
For their first semester, Sansom said they have two main goals.
“One side is the social, community-building aspect and the other side is the advocacy group,” Sansom said.
Krzyzanowski said he hopes the SVA will serve a different function for student veterans than the Veterans Services Office, which was created in 2007 to help track the number of student veterans on campus as well as to help student veterans transition to student life.
“Building more of a sense of community among the veterans here,” Krzyzanowski said. “I can’t just go to the VA [Veteran Affair’s] Office and ask the retired Col. ‘Where do the Vets hang out?’”
Krzyzanowski said that community is particularly important as veterans.
“[It’s] not a real sense of community,” he said. “Coming from the military is a really big thing for us.”
Another goal of the group is to change the organization of the VS Office. Sansom and Krzyzanowski said they want to be able to combine the different parts into one easy-access department.
“Making it easier to have access for things; a one-stop shop for vets,” Sansom said. “Ideally in the UMC and including the GI Bill, career-services, registration and many other things.”
Both students said they plan for the SVA to help the existing VS office.
“Assisting the current VA office here because it’s one person dealing with a thousand vets,” Krzyzanowski said. “You can’t be there with everybody.”
On the other side of things, the SVA has goals and plans in mind to advocate and lobby for veterans’ rights, Sansom said.
“There are stories of vets not wanting to go here [CU],” Krzyzanowski added.
Sansom and Krzyzanowski said they want to help people view Boulder and CU in a different light.
“[It’s about] building awareness of not just the CU community but the Boulder Community as well and attracting vets to the school and growing the veteran population,” Krzyzanowski said.
Nick Vidulich, a sophomore open-option major and veteran, attended the SVAs first meeting on Monday night. He said he wanted to see what they have to offer.
“Boulder doesn’t have the best relation with veterans,” Vidulich said.
Vidulich said he hopes that veteran relations will improve with the new organization.
Michelle Hiland, a 22-year-old senior integrated physiology and business management major, said she was surprised to hear about the Student Veterans Association.
“Yeah, I’m surprised,” Hiland said. “I think it’s a good thing. [It’s] cool to bring them all together. All are serving the country.”
Sansom said this semester the group plans to make an impact here at CU.
“This semester we are going to actually try and pull in general membership,” Sansom said. “We are going to have to actually do the things we have planned out.”
Retired Air Force Col. George “Barney” Ballinger, interim director of Veterans Services Office, has been a major asset in helping Sansom and Krzyzanowski, they said. Ballinger is also the student group adviser.
During the first meeting Monday night, Ballinger examined the crowd while Sansom and Krzyzanowski spoke about the program.
“There were at least 35 people, between 35 and 40,” Ballinger said. “I wasn’t surprised.”
Ballinger said there are between 600 and 1,000 student veterans at CU.
The turnout was larger than Sansom and Krzyzanowski said they expected.
“Our goal is to keep it going,” Ballinger said. “My efforts are to learn more about [veterans’] needs.”
To learn more about the SVA and their plans, visit their website and their Facebook page.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Elaine Cromie at Elaine.email@example.com.