Serving Veteran Students
A Q&A with Erin Beary Andersen on the university's Veterans Working Group
The Veterans Working Group was founded in 2007 to explore ways that Seattle University might better serve its veteran students, which number about 140. Since then the 18-member group has been meeting bi-weekly. The group is led by co-chairs—a faculty or staff member and a graduate student. Jake Diaz, vice president of Student Development, was the first faculty/staff co-chair, then Audrey Hudgins, academic advisor and instructor in the College of Arts and Sciences, and now Erin Beary Andersen, associate director and multifaith minister in Campus Ministry. Beary Andersen had already been a member of the group when she was asked to serve as chair. She gladly accepted out of “personal desire to see that something was being done for these students.” She recently sat down with The Commons to talk about the working group.
The Commons: So what has the Veterans Working Group been working on?
Erin Beary Andersen: The group’s original commission was basically to assess the needs of our student veterans. We started by creating a survey to try to get at what services SU’s student veterans are accessing and what services they need. The only way that veteran students could be identified was through their financial aid packages. Kersten Sato (of Student Financial Services) was critical in finding the names of veterans to disseminate the survey to. Kersten is so well-versed in veterans benefits. We can’t extol her virtues enough!
The Commons: What did the survey reveal?
EBA: That as a whole our student veterans aren’t using a lot of services. The question, then, becomes why? So we’re now in the process of doing focus groups to delve deeper into the reasons that student veterans aren’t accessing the services available to them.
The Commons: Where is the process leading?
EBA: The working group is planning to put forward a concrete report with recommendations to the university on how to proceed in terms of how we support our veteran students. We plan to have that report completed in the winter or spring.
The Commons: And then at that point will the Veterans Working Group disband?
EBA: Yes, at least in terms of its current charge, although it may continue in some form, such as an advisory group. The student-led Veterans Club, which the working group has been partnering with, will continue to be active on veterans issues.
The Commons: Is there anything else the campus community should know about the working group, or more generally about veteran students at SU?
EBA: I think just to be aware not only of the needs of our veteran students but also to the reality that they are a very diverse group. It’s difficult for these students to sit in class while a professor or classmate rails on the military. Some are uncomfortable being put on the spot on questions about the military. Some prefer to not be identified as veterans. It really depends on the person and so there’s a need to be sensitive to where they’re coming from.