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Published September 06, 2018
A “one-of-a-kind” facility that will enhance the success of the University of Wyoming’s 636 military-connected students will be dedicated Friday, Sept. 14.
A dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for UW’s new Marna M. Kuehne Foundation Veterans Services Center (VSC), located on the third floor of the Wyoming Union, will be at 1 p.m. Refreshments will follow the ceremony.
The new space is nearly 2,300 square feet and designed with specific awareness of needs and disabilities common in UW’s military and veteran community, says Marty Martinez, the senior project coordinator for the VSC and Veterans Program. The project was completed in July.
“While our past facility in Knight Hall was accommodating at the time, as the Veterans Program grew and gained notoriety, so did the number of visitors to the center, leading to a noticeable overcrowding and lack of space to accommodate persons and activities within the former, smaller 650-square-foot facility,” Martinez says. “Through the Marna M. Kuehne Foundation and private donors, enough money was raised to fund the $870,000 project. Their quick financial response was impressive and beyond all our expectations.”
The new VSC houses a student computer lab with an electric table that will rise and lower to accommodate varying ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) needs; a full, spacious kitchen (minus a stove), allowing for easy ADA accessibility and access; a large lounge with a wall-mounted, 75-inch television; a group study room to enhance tutoring services; a professional conference room with a 75-inch, wall-mounted television for audio/visual uses; and a separate multi-use room for visiting counselors, advisers or program support personnel working with members of the campus veterans community. The center also includes the director’s office and a supply room.
“The design created a very open, comfortable, well-lit and well-designed facility that has made an immediate impact to our returning and new students,” Martinez says. “My staff and I are already seeing student veterans in the new center who have been on campus for a number of years, but would not come to our old facility for a number of reasons. We are enjoying the looks of surprise, happiness and smiles as our returning students remember the old and embrace the new. This is a one-of-a-kind facility within our region.”
Martinez says the turning point, for him personally, for the need of a new center occurred in 2016, when a wheelchair-bound student veteran could not navigate his way in the small, cramped space of the former center.
“I vowed then that UW and I would create a space that would not only serve our military-connected community, but also would be constructed to address ADA accessibility and specific needs common to our veteran community,” Martinez says. “A student veteran discussion group was formed and, in two meetings, we were able to define the design and functionality of the new space. We thank the UW Board of Trustees and administration for believing in our program and realizing the need for this facility for our military-connected community.”
Martinez, who served in the Wyoming Army National Guard for 29 years, the last 26 on active duty, has seen the VSC grow from three work-study students in 2012 to seven student veterans employed through the Veterans Administration Work-Study Program.
“These student veterans are responsible for planning, coordinating and conducting more than 50 social and community engagement activities and programs each academic year,” Martinez says.
Volunteers staffing the VSC are Ted Gillenwater, of Cody, and Alex Gunter, from Tucson, Ariz., both U.S. Air Force veterans; Kennan Hinckley, of Douglas, a Wyoming Army National Guard member; Brittney Jayo, of Morgan, Utah, a family member of a U.S. Air Force veteran; Angela Neuman, of Rawlins, a Wyoming Air National Guard member; Frederick “Alex” Slane Jr., of Fort Collins, Colo., a U.S. Air Force veteran; Robbie Veiga, of Spearfish, S.D., a U.S. Navy veteran; and Nicholas Whites, of Gillette, a U.S. Army veteran.