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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Old Dominion Hosts Second Annual Student Veterans Conference

About 200 student veterans, supporters and college and university officials from around the state gathered at Old Dominion University recently for the University's second annual Virginia Student Veterans Conference.

During the March 27 event, participants tackled issues including academic and career readiness and transitioning to the civilian workforce.

Virginia's Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs John C. Harvey, Jr.; and Secretary of Education Anne Holton spoke at the conference, which had as a theme, "Preparing for Your Next Mission: College, Graduation, and Beyond."

In welcoming remarks, Old Dominion President John R. Broderick said the University takes great pride in its long-standing and strong connection with the military, including America's veterans. Broderick also noted that as a military draw-down continues, and more vets arrive on campuses throughout the Commonwealth, greater attention and resources will be required to ensure smooth transitions.

"The relationship with our military students needs to go so much beyond just telling them the courses they need to be successful," Broderick said. "There is so much more they need from us, and so much more we need to provide for them."

Secretary Harvey praised Broderick and ODU's commitment to helping veterans transition. And Harvey stressed Gov. Terry McAuliffe's "intense" commitment to that effort.

"Gov. McAuliffe is all in on this," Harvey said, "but we need to hear from you, so we know we're doing the right things from your perspective."

The primary goal of the conference was to build collaboration between student veterans and those who serve them in all of our state higher education institutions. That was the motivation behind Old Dominion's creation of its Military Connection Center two years ago.

The center was established to help the university's substantial military-affiliated population in a variety of ways. For the past five years, G.I. Jobs, the premier magazine for military personnel transitioning to civilian life, has recognized ODU as a "Military Friendly" institution.

Director Bill Brown, former Army ROTC commander at Old Dominion, said the center works to ensure that the quarter of the University's population that is military-affiliated, including more than 2,600 students attending on the GI Bill, are fully welcomed into the University community.

"The Center is growing exponentially as more people learn what we're doing and what we offer," Brown said. "We're developing new systems to streamline things to work better with different departments on campus, and to inform students, parents, faculty and staff."

In closing remarks, Secretary Holton, the wife of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, echoed Harvey's sentiment regarding the need for communication so the state can better serve transitioning veterans.

"Gov. McAuliffe wants Virginia to be the most military-friendly state and there's no reason we shouldn't be," said Holton, noting Virginia's vast military-dependent population. "We have great assets and opportunities. We just have to figure out how to make connections."

Ron Capps, founder of the Veterans Writing Project, an Old Dominion alumnus and author of the book, "Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years," also spoke at the Student Veterans Conference.

The conference included breakout sessions targeted toward student veterans or faculty and administrators, including two sessions on using writing and the arts to help bind veterans to the greater community; and a session hosted by the "Give an Hour" and "Wins for Warriors" groups, which was focused on community collaboration to assist veterans in problem-solving.

Funding for the conference was provided through a donation from S.B. Ballard Construction. The Veterans of Foreign Wars organization provided breakfast and coffee.

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