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VRC: Improving veterans' services

Thursday, December 11, 2008

James Mcauley is a regional coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs

James Mcauley is a regional coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

Addie Turkowski, co-chair of the Veterans' Task Force President Earl H. Potter III greets Rep. Steve Gottwalt and Rep, Dean Urdahl.  Julie Holewa, a two-time graduate of St. Cloud State, addresses the Veterans' Resource Center celebration,  A Student Veterans Organization T-shirt says it all Ashley Belden is president of the university's Student Veterans Organization  James Mcauley is a regional coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Christopher Strong, former president of the Student Veterans Organization Sen. Michelle Fischbach (left) and Michael Gillilan confer at the Veterans Resource Center celebration Rep. Larry Haws 

The transition from soldier to student is smoother now thanks to a veterans' task force and the new Veteran's Resource Center.

Students, staff, faculty and legislators celebrated Dec. 11 in the southwest corner of St. Cloud State's Administrative Services Building, just outside the new Veterans' Resource Center.��

The�center�serves the university's roughly 500 student-veterans, averaging about 600 contacts a month, according to James Mcauley, regional coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA).

"I never thought I'd see this," Julie Holewa told the gathering, which included President Earl H. Potter III and the chairs of the Veterans' Task Force, Addie Turkowski and John Eggers. Turkowski is director of Career Services. Eggers is director of Counseling and Psychological Services.

"You come here and this is your safety net," said Holewa, an Iraq War veteran who�came home injured and unemployed.�

Holewa, who�earned her master's degree in counseling psychology in May 2008, said 50 percent of her success was due to St. Cloud State's veterans' services. She now works as a counselor at St. Cloud Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Key to improved veterans' services is the larger space in Administrative Services, just feet away from critical student services such as Admissions and Records & Registration. Also key is the work of Mcauley, the MDVA�regional coordinator who�serves St. Cloud State and six other�colleges.

The top recommendation of the task force is to hire a full-time coordinator to work�in the Veterans' Resource Center, according to Turkowski.

Other recommendations�include improving coordination of services and more office space for the veterans' services, Turkowski said.

The task force's�recommendations,�which are based on more than�a year of investigation and research, have�been forwarded to the President's Office.

"There is so much talent and leadership in our veteran-students," Turkowski said. "How do we utilize that and integrate that across our campus?"

Two of those talented veterans spoke�at the celebration: Ashley Belden and Christopher Strong.�

Belden,�president of the university's Student Veterans Organization, is an elementary education major from White Bear Lake, Minn. As an�Army National Guard�member she served 15 months in Iraq. She called the�Veterans' Resource Center,�and the services it provides, "a priceless support system."

Strong, the former president of Student Veterans Organization,�said�"President Potter's�support has been invaluable." Strong is an Air Force veteran and�history major�from Maple Grove, Minn.�

Potter is himself a veteran, having�served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1969 to 1993.���

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