Giving visibility to ‘invisible population’ on campus

U.S. Marines on patrol

Photo: U.S. Marine Corps, Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin

UIC’s 450 student veterans are an “invisible population” on campus, says Annette Wright.

“You don’t know who is a veteran,” said Wright, director of Student Veteran Affairs.

“We want to give them visibility.”

Several campus initiatives will recognize UIC student veterans this month: an exhibit curated by veterans, the launch of an entrepreneurship program for vets and a partnership with the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.


‘Things We Carried’

When Kenneth Adams joined the military 10 years ago, his uncle gave him a cross that he put on his helmet. The helmet and cross remained with him for 10 years as he served as an Army medic in Germany and the Middle East.

“It was a symbol of protection, a good luck charm and something to keep me safe,” said Adams, a junior in biology/premed.

Adams’ helmet is just one item on display in “The Things We Carried,” an exhibit curated by student veterans that provides a glimpse into deployment.

The exhibit is on display Nov. 11 to 15 in the African-American Cultural Center, 200 Adams Hall. Viewing hours at 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 11 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 12 to 15; an opening reception will be held at 5 p.m. Nov. 11.

“Students can come to connect, and say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that,’” Adams said.

The exhibit includes photos, artwork and objects from war that members of the Student Veterans Association collected from peers.

“The items are both practical and sentimental in value,” Adams said.

Prints borrowed from the National Veterans Museum are also featured in the exhibit, which was inspired by The Things We Carried, a 1990 book by Tim O’Brien about American soldiers in the Vietnam War.

Student veterans will offer guided tours and talk about images on display.

“It’s an opportunity for people who aren’t veterans to hear from veterans and let veterans tell their own stories,” Wright said.

“It’s a very powerful event.”


Fostering entrepreneurship

Next semester, UIC will pilot a program to help veterans launch careers in the business world.

Veterans2Ventures — a free, nondegree certificate program sponsored by the College of Business Administration — will launch next fall.

A networking reception for the Veterans2Ventures program takes place from 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 11 at the East Terrace, Student Center East.

The entrepreneurship program supports veterans returning to the Chicago area who want to start their own businesses. Participants will learn basic business management skills and how to run a successful business.

“While there are many resources available to returning veterans, there is no university-based entrepreneurship program serving Chicago today that combines the academic foundation, immersive campus and community experience, and the sustained engagement and mentoring that we can offer at UIC,” said Michael Mikhail, dean of the College of Business Administration.


Someone to talk to

UIC’s Student Veteran Affairs Office is partnering with the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center to provide services through the Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) Program.

A staff member from the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center is on campus three days a week to provide counseling services to student veterans.

The program includes workshops for faculty and staff to destigmatize the veteran experience, Wright said.

“When you’re transitioning from the military to the campus community, it can be stressful,” she said.

Students who want to participate in the program should call Student Veteran Affairs at 312-996-4857.

“The VA staff member understands veterans and can help with time management, stress management and help them through the readjustment process in a safe space,” Wright said.


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