Nicole Tovar, a Culinary Arts major and a Staff Sergeant with the U.S. Army Reserves, has a mission: to unite the student veteran population at UAA.
As president of the Student Veterans of UAA, a support group for veterans on campus, Tovar hopes to assist veterans who are struggling to find resources and figure out their military benefits, among other difficulties. Such a resource has been lacking for veterans at UAA—leaving a large percent of the campus unrepresented.
Tammy Cartwright, a combat veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom, initially brought Student Veterans of UAA to life in the fall of 2010. The group struggled to attract members, however, and when personal matters forced Cartwright to step out of the group completely, Tovar took up the reins.
“They were struggling to get things up and running,” said Tovar. “Which, when you’re attempting to bring together a group of inherently solitary veterans, that’s understandable. So I decided, ‘Well, I’ll give it a shot.’”
Joining her as vice president of the club is Amanda Doyle, a Nursing major and a Sergeant in the Army Reserves. She was inspired to take on the role, she said, when she realized just how few veterans knew and were involved with Student Veterans.
“We’re really missing that sense of community among our veterans here,” Doyle said. “With all the veterans I know on campus, it’s sad that we’re not showing unity at all.”
Tovar and Doyle’s plan is to build that sense of community back up.
“We’re here with the resources veterans are looking for as they try to make it through college,” said Doyle. “Hopefully we can help them come together.”
“There are a lot of things that need to be done,” Tovar stated. “We’ve been in contact with the school a lot, trying to rebuild bridges and establish contacts with departments like the financial office.”
Their biggest accomplishment so far has been to connect with the Student Veterans of America, a national organization that runs a highly organized network for student veterans. The organization has provided Tovar with many resources for Student Veterans of UAA, including access to scholarships, GI Bill update information, and an internship support program which gives veterans a monthly stipend to complete internships while attending school.
“Student Veterans of America has been training us, and now we can turn around and give that information to those who need it,” said Tovar. “We’ve got access to all these great programs, so we can really provide legitimate support to our veterans on campus.”
The club has big plans for this coming November. What originally was planned as a Military Appreciation Day has now expanded to a weeklong event, set to feature a resource fair, basketball game, and a Veterans panel at the library. The main event will be a full military ceremony, involving a six-hour name reading of all the fallen soldiers and a national moment of silence for which UAA will be representing the state of Alaska.
“The ultimate goal is to get the word out, spread awareness and get our veterans united,” said Tovar. “This Military Appreciation Week is just the beginning of what we hope to accomplish.”