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University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

University of Colorado Denver, Newsroom
 

Veterans get new digs

Growing population of student veterans finds services and camaraderie


Cameron Cook

​by Vicki Hildner | University Communications

On a beautiful spring afternoon when most students might prefer to be outdoors, the Office of Veteran Student Services (OVSS)—with its warm exposed brick, long comfortable sofa and rows of new computers —is a popular place. Several students are cramming for tests. One is stretched out on the sofa, napping. A couple of vets have hunkered down in the quiet study room.

At the front desk, U.S. Navy veteran and student worker Kami Fluetsch greets everyone who walks through the door with a smile and an easy “What can I do to help?”
 
Since the office opened in a corner of the Tivoli Student Union’s lower level seven months ago, it has seen more than 3,000 student visits, exceeding the expectations of Cameron Cook, Veteran Student Services director.
 
“At one point, I thought, what if we create this place and no one shows?” Cook said. “Instead, it has taken on a life of its own.”
 
Office of Veteran Student Services Office of Veteran Student Services Office of Veteran Student Services Office of Veteran Student Services
 
The old OVSS on the corner of 14th and Larimer Streets was a hard-to-find rabbit warren of offices with two computers shared by five student workers. The spacious new OVSS is modeled after USO centers in airports, but Cook emphasizes that it’s not a place for veterans to isolate themselves.
 
“We build a sense of community here, and then we integrate into the rest of the campus,” he said.

Meet just some of the people who are building a sense of community on any given day at the OVSS.
 

Will Glenn

Branch of service:
U.S. Marine Corps, served in Afghanistan
Why did you choose CU Denver?
Cameron Cook and the sports marketing program
What does the new OVSS do for you?
“It has everything you need to help you succeed, from the Boots to Suits program to transfer credits. They also help provide tutoring.”
What’s special about the people you meet at the office?
“Our life experiences are the same. They know what you have been through, and they’re more understanding.”
 

Ashley Metcalf

Branch of service:
U.S. Air Force, served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar
Why did you choose CU Denver?
To study sociology; planning to study clinical social work in graduate school
What does the new OVSS do for you?
“This is an entryway into the larger community. You meet some veterans here, you meet the people they know, you start networking with the larger community.”
What’s special about the people you meet at the office?
“A sense of community is necessary to succeed for anyone, whether you are a veteran or not. The veteran community here helps you succeed in higher education and life.”
  

Get credit for your service

This year, Cameron Cook spearheaded CU Denver’s new program to offer academic credits for military service. The credits can be applied to required courses for graduation. For example, any vet who completed basic training receives three credits. Any vet who attended a military language training institute has the 10-credit language requirement waived. For a complete list of credits for service, check with the OVSS.

Justin Mayhall

Branch of service:
U.S. Navy, served on USNS Mercy ship in Southeast Asia
Why did you choose CU Denver?
Wanted to be closer to family
What does the new OVSS do for you?
“Through the Boots to Suits mentorship program, I got a job with benefits before I even graduated. It’s an amazing program, and I really lucked out.”
What’s special about the people you meet at the office?
 “In the service, we can work together 24 hours a day, and you develop a great sense of camaraderie. Here you find the same camaraderie.”
 

Kami Fluetsch

Branch of service:
U.S. Navy, served in Kuwait, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom
Why did you choose CU Denver?
Interested in CU School of Medicine
What does the new OVSS do for you?
“You can find resources for veterans, their dependents, other students in the school, faculty and staff here and I have a work study job here.”
What’s special about the people you meet at the office?
“When I first got here, I didn’t think the school was military friendly. In the past two years, there has been a huge transformation. The programs for veterans are amazing.”
 

What's new with boots to suits?

Since its launch in 2012, CU Denver Boots to Suits has helped dozens of veterans transition from school into the workplace. Now, the OVSS has hired a full-time program coordinator for the veteran mentorship program.
 
Izzy Abbass comes to the position after a 20-year career in telecommunications. A veteran of Desert Storm, he was the Colorado Veteran of the Year in 2012. Abbass wants to improve the mentor matches, tailoring internships to students’ career goals, just like he did recently with an urban planning graduate student who wants to work in the third world.

“I matched him with a company a couple blocks from campus, which is doing work in Africa and Central America,” said Abbass. “He is in heaven.”

 

Leonel Madrigal

Branch of service:
U.S. Army, served in Iraq
Why did you choose CU Denver?
Civil engineering program
What does the new OVSS do for you?
“If I need something, I can come here, and they direct me to where I need to go.”
What’s special about the people you meet at the office?
“In class, I sometimes felt out of place because everyone is younger, and they like to do different things. Here I can connect with the people. I’m not out of place anymore.”
 

Sam Petersen

Branch of service:
U.S. Marine Corps, served in Iraq and Japan
Why did you choose CU Denver?
Easy to transfer from Community College of Denver
What does the new OVSS do for you?
“They have been very helpful with benefits. Also, I can come here to study before class and print papers here.”
What’s special about the people you meet at the office?
“We all have the same focus. We know that school is going to help us get ahead and succeed.”
 
Published:  April 1, 2013

 

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