Though the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Military Resource Center has been operational for months, the IUP community celebrated the center’s grand opening Friday morning.
The center, located in rooms 101 and 102 of Pratt Hall, has been in use since January and has already seen more than 160 students, according to Capt. David Sabulsky, interim director of the center and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructor.
“We did a soft opening Jan. 21 to get initial support out there,” Sabulsky said. “We did some soft advertising in the community and IUP so veterans would know there’s a space for them and a space where they could do some of their studies.”
The opening included tours of the center and formal remarks in Pratt Auditorium from IUP President Michael Driscoll, assistant sociology professor Demond Mullins, Interfaith Council member Scott Weigner, IUP Council of Trustees member Aaron Douthit (junior, nursing), Vice President of Student Affairs Rhonda Luckey, IUP Veterans Organization President Michael Oquendo and Sabulsky.
Indiana Borough Mayor George Hood, who was present at the ceremony, said that as a U.S. Army veteran, he is glad that he was invited to the military ceremony.
Prior to the ceremony, Driscoll said he is “very pleased” that the university is able to provide additional support for its military students.
“There’s no question that those who have served and their families need support,” Driscoll said. “There are great programs for vets and great programs for active duty and reserves, but they are hard to navigate.”
During formal remarks, Driscoll described the center as “symbolic” in that it “reaffirms support for the men and women who ensure our freedom.”
The center serves both undergraduate and graduate military-affiliated students at IUP and provides support and services for family members of those deployed. One of the center’s functions is to “help [military-affiliated students] transition into college,” Luckey said.
Some veterans have difficulty completing their college education, Sabulsky said.
“Vets have, in the education arena, a tough record, and that tough record is they aren’t completing their degrees,” he said. “Therefore they aren’t getting the type of jobs they should have from the amount of military experience they bring to the business world.”
Sabulsky said the transition from military life to academic life is one that can be assisted by the educational institution.
“Now, they come here. It’s very loose; it’s very open,” he said. “When transitioning from a dictative, hierarchical society to one that is more loose, there’s the need for support within that, and IUP has recognized that.”
Retired Major Gen. Rodney D. Ruddock, the Indiana County Commissioner, said IUP opening a center to service its almost 700 veterans is an “absolutely important part of our community.”
“This will allow, for veterans, a place to come to talk to support each other and engage here at IUP,” Ruddock said. “I’m excited about that because it gives us a resource for Indiana County.”
Sabulsky said the center is a “three-level function: outreach, retention and employment of veteran students.
“We want to make sure they feel welcome,” Sabulsky said. “Then we want to make sure they remain a student until the day they get to turn their tassel to the other side and graduate.”