The University of Oklahoma's new Veteran Zone opens the door for increased community for military connected students and builds on the strong relationship between the university and student veterans.
The University of Oklahoma has a storied history and rich tradition with the United States military and its servicemen and women. Active and retired military personnel have called OU home for over a century. With the opening of the Veteran Zone in April 2023, the university hopes to build upon that relationship.
The Veteran Zone, found on the first floor of the Oklahoma Memorial Union, was opened with one thing in mind: To provide a safe, open space for veteran resources and military-connected students. Thanks to partnerships from around campus, students who have returned to school following military service have a place of their own.
The room itself is spacious with desks and group tables for study, and a lounge area for relaxation. It is open to students who are veterans or are active duty servicemembers 24 hours a day with the use of a keycard. One of those students who have used the space and see the potential it has for the student veteran community on campus is economics student and Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) leader Daniel Glass.
“What (the Veteran Zone) does is open the door for more community,” said Glass.
Glass is a local student from Norman who served in the U.S. Air Force following a desire for public service. He enlisted at age 19 and has been stationed in South Korea, Texas, and Afghanistan before returning to Oklahoma at Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City.
“Working in PAVE, we make efforts to reach out and host events and communicate and connect with students,” Glass said. “Ever since we had this space, that process has multiplied.”
As a resource, the Veteran Zone aims to help former military students like Glass acclimate to the environment of OU while also encouraging them to find new areas for them to branch out. While every case is unique, student veterans will often have some difficulty transitioning from the rigid structure of military life to the more free but still demanding student life on a major college campus.
Glass commends the people and resources available to student veterans at OU to help with their transition into college life. The Veteran Zone is another extension of that help.
“When I first started (at OU), I'm thinking I just need to focus on classes and make sure I can handle those,” Glass said. “Once you get comfortable with managing a typical course load, you start to branch out into things like clubs.”
With many similar transitions, the move is made easier by finding like-minded individuals or those with similar backgrounds. Student veterans are now able to fully explore their potential, meet people from similar backgrounds now that there exists a space designed for their unique circumstance.
“It's easier to get face to face with students,” Glass said. “It's easier to host events and the amount of engagement you get has increased. I think what the university does to support veterans by making them feel comfortable helps increase our success.”