Four years ago, in a small room tucked away in the Student Union, Trustee Haywood Cochrane and then Carolina student Jacob Hinton sketched out a vision of a resource center for the University’s veterans.
They scribbled their plan on the back of a napkin.
On Sept. 28, their vision became a reality as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officially opened the Carolina Veterans Resource Center, a space designated for veterans and military-affiliated students.
“This is a recognition of what you have done, and what you will do for this University,” Cochrane told the veterans at a ribbon cutting ceremony. “For me, this is a dream come true.”
Cochrane, Chancellor Carol L. Folt, and members of University’s military community were on hand for the ribbon cutting for the new center, which is located on South Campus in Odum Village.
“This particular building really is a case where students led and we saw a need and were able to meet it,” Folt said. “This truly is a dedicated space on campus with resources and information for our military-affiliated students and veterans.
“This demonstrates an ongoing commitment to [veterans] by UNC and the state of North Carolina.”
For years, Carolina has provided educational opportunities for service members. Those opportunities include Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA, accounting programs and executive development courses, which host senior military leaders to accelerate transitions to new leadership roles; the School of Medicine’s physician assistant degree program; and UNC Core, an online program that prepares students for degree-completion programs by fulfilling core requirements needed to enroll.
In 2015, Amber Mathwig was hired as the University’s first Student Veterans Assistance Coordinator to support the University’s military-affiliated students, including veterans, active duty personnel, reservists, National Guard, spouses and dependents.
The Carolina Veterans Resource Center, Folt said, is the University’s next step to better support and serve UNC-Chapel Hill’s veterans, service members and military families. The new center serves as a central location for services focused on their needs such as assistance finding and applying for specialized scholarships.
The center will also provide study space, a lounge, conference and meeting space and a lactation room for the students.
“It creates a centralized location for veterans to meet, which I think is critical,” said Carolina alumnus and 12-year Air Force veteran Gantt Kinlaw. “It creates an environment that helps veterans succeed and graduate at a higher rate.”
For Hinton and other former Carolina Veterans Organization leaders, the ribbon cutting celebrated the culmination of years of work to help more veterans succeed in higher education.
“Just walking here and seeing everybody and what has happened and the people that have driven the project after I had the vision, I’m extremely proud,” he said. “Not just for my efforts, but more importantly the people after me that were able to drive that vision and success here and to make it come to fruition.”
Photos by Jon Gardiner, story by Brandon Bieltz and video by Rob Holliday, University Communications