The University of Connecticut Veterans Affairs and Military Programs, (VAMP) will host a housewarming ceremony for the university’s veterans community Thursday at Willis Nichols Hawley Armory.
The ceremony, celebrating the opening of VAMP’s new location in Hawley Armory, will take place from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Alyssa Kelleher, director of VAMP, said the new location will bring a multitude of benefits to veteran students, faculty and staff on campus.
“I would hope people would see that our spaces are comfortable and welcoming,” Kelleher said. “Our staff is always here to provide any information or assistance and I think there is an opportunity to develop relationships with our staff and other veterans just by meeting people in our spaces, that you would not find elsewhere on campus.”
The department’s re-location to Hawley Armory is a year in the making, Kelleher said. Kelleher said the armory is the perfect fit for the university’s military community.
“I like the historical significance of having our program in the armory,” Kelleher said. “Taking the armory space back as a military space is great. They allowed us to be involved in the process from start to finish in terms of design. We tried to keep a lot of the historical aspects in place.”
Kelleher also said that the move from the Arjona building, the former location for VAMP, to Hawley Armory has increased foot traffic and ease of access.
“The department is now more centrally located,” Kelleher said. “A lot of our students have commented that the location is so much better. It’s been a positive move.”
According to VAMP, there are more than 850 military affiliated students at the University of Connecticut, including students enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. The VAMP team’s primary goal is disseminating information and resources to the veterans community.
“Primarily it’s to be a place where our veteran students, and faculty and staff, know that they can come for assistance with various issues,” says Kelleher. “Our number one service we provide is the certification of education benefits. Everything else we do is very important, but if we don’t get the certification of education benefits right, then we’re missing the mark.”
Above and beyond educational benefits, Kelleher said the VAMP team works hard to build and foster the veterans community on campus, especially when it comes to connecting students with valuable resources and information.
“We don’t have a counselor on our staff, or someone who works in career services,” Kelleher said. “We do have those connections on and off campus, so we can do a warm handoff with any of our student veterans to someone in the area of assistance they require.”
According to Kelleher, the transition from military service to the classroom can be frightening and overwhelming for service members and their families. Kelleher said she feels VAMP, and its new location in Hawley Armory, will have a positive impact on that transition.
“I know all of our veterans are not the same, because they absolutely are not,” Kelleher said. “But we know they are starting as students with one thing in common- their military service.”
Kelleher said the new location will serve as a welcoming beacon to military-affiliated students new to the daily challenges of student life.
“I think for people that are new to campus, and new to higher education, it can be daunting to come to a large university and not know anybody,” Kelleher said. “This space provides that immediate contact with people with whom you may feel more comfortable.”
George J Penney III is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at george.Penney_iii@uconn.edu.