Student Veteran Association to have elections, hopes to become involved with SGA in future

The Student Veteran Association assists veterans on campus and allows them to have a common area to relax between classes and rely on one another for support. Next Wednesday, the organization will have elections for a new president. Art Phillips, current president, is graduating this semester.

Phillips, senior biology major, served in the Army as a medic from May 1992 to August 2016. He said he chose to continue his education at Marshall because he attended the university in the early 1980s, and his family is in Huntington. Marshall offers a first-year seminar course for veterans, and Phillips said his first contact with SVA came from that class.

“I was actually contacted when I applied here, because they offer a first-year seminar class for veterans only, so they made sure I got in the right classes,” Phillips said. “That was my original contact, and then they just moved into this facility, so I’ve been hanging out here for a while. I like it. The old leadership left, and we’ve kind of fell into it.”

SVA used to be called Vets for Vets, but it was rebranded last summer. Now, it is nationally recognized by and affiliated with the National Student Veterans of America. Phillips said they are working to build up the chapter.

“As any student organization, we try to do things for the community,” Phillips said. “We had a food drive for the homeless vets, things like that. We also offer comradery to the other vets. They can come in, they don’t have to join the association, but if they come into the lounge; they can talk to other vets. Vets tend to open up more around other vets about their experiences and really about everything, in a lot of ways. It’s a big support organization for the veterans.”

There is a total of 380 veterans on all of Marshall’s campuses and online. Julie Bittinger, secretary treasurer of SVA, said she would love for more veterans to join the organization, but she understands they have busy schedules.

“I’d like to see people get involved,” Bittinger, retired Air Force military law officer, said. “Most of us are nontraditional students; we’ve been out of high school for six plus years, up to 20 years. We’ve got families. Most of us aren’t on campus and have other commitments.”

Bittinger, senior respiratory care major, also said she would like to see the university create more veteran-friendly classes and resources.

“I’d say there’s always room for improvement,” Bittinger said. “As a college campus, most resources and teaching are directed toward 18 to 23 year olds, which a lot of us don’t necessarily fit, and there are people without military service coming here to school outside that age range. I would like to see classes more controlled rather than people doing what they want, but that might be the structured bit in me. I like the expectations; I like being held to expectations. I don’t necessarily like to hear people whine about not meeting expectations and then not getting the grade they want.”

One goal for SVA was to organize an English 201 class for veterans, taught by a fellow veteran. Unfortunately, said Phillips, not enough veterans were interested, and the class had to allow nonveterans to sign up for it.

Phillips said another aspect of the club he would like to see grow under new leadership is their involvement with student government.

“At this time, no, we do not have anyone on student government,” Phillips said. “But I think we should. We should have a seat. It would be important for us to be involved with the rest of the student organizations because we are a student organization.”

SVA meets every Wednesday and Thursday of the first full week of every month in Gullickson Hall room 212. They welcome veterans, students attending school on military benefits and dependents.

Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected]