When senior risk management major Justin LoPiccolo first came to Temple after being in the Coast Guard for six years, he felt said he felt overwhelmed.
“I really felt like I was just thrown into this completely different world,” he said. “If you go right out of high school, you have counselors you can go to, it’s a little more formal of a process. What I found was that it was like, ‘OK, I’m on my own.’”
Veterans have operated without a central figure to direct questions to at Temple, which is something that many feel should be changed. Some hope that incoming president Neil Theobald will establish such a position, veteran advocates said at a recent town-hall style meeting.
“They don’t have that one go-to person, they kind of get sent to a lot of different people,” said Debbie Campbell, senior assistant dean at Fox School of Business and adviser to Temple Veterans Associations.
Responsibilities are currently spread between a large group of faculty, all of whom have other primary responsibilities, Campbell said.
Along with the lack of a specific director, TVA, a student organization, also struggles to claim real estate on Main Campus. The group has no designated meeting space or office, a problem that has exacerbated in recent years with an influx of veterans. While the Ambler Campus has set aside space in Bright Hall for TVA, Main Campus organization is still drifting.
“A lot of times we’re here in this space in Alter,” said Campbell, adding that the focus on Alter Hall tends to scare away veterans studying at other colleges within the university. “I think [they need] a dedicated space on campus…a place where they could go hang and help each other, a place where they could go and get resource info about Tuttleman Counseling Center, or different things that TVA is offering. A place where they could go just to vent to each other.”
LoPiccolo added that it’s difficult to sift through Temple’s website to find veteran’s resources.
As Temple began welcoming post-9/11 veterans and embracing the Yellow Ribbon program and GI Bills, numbers of veteran students rose dramatically. Campbell said that, during the past few years, the university has seen a massive increase in students receiving veteran benefits.
In an effort to address the problems facing these students, the university initiated a task force dedicated to investigating and facilitating veteran affairs. Organized three years ago and covering everything from recruitment to Veteran Affairs funding, the task force has helped identify and solve a number of problems specific to Temple vets.
“It’s morphed a little bit as the needs have changed,” Campbell said. “When we started the task force we might have had over 100 students that were post-9/11, and now I think we’re up to 535 students that are getting benefits, so it’s definitely grown.”
LoPiccolo said that a central director for veterans would be helpful.
“I think having a central point would be advantageous to veterans because veterans would have a role that they can recognize and go to for advice,” LoPiccolo said. “Having a central position that’s unaffiliated to a school would be very helpful to direct veterans through the system.”
With the growth, Campbell sees an even greater need for a designated director.
“I would love it, students would love it. We need it,” Campbell said. “I don’t necessarily think they don’t feel supported, but I think that they feel disconnected when there are issues with the VA and their benefits and Temple doesn’t have that go-to person.”
Ali Watkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.