Things are getting a little snug in the University Veterans Alliance Office.

Located in the Student Organization suite in Highsmith Union, the University Veterans Alliance Office serves as a place for UNC Asheville’s student veterans to study and relax, and as the meeting place for members of the Veterans Alliance. But as participation in the Veterans Alliance has grown, students are finding themselves squeezed for space.

Now they’ve got the chance to expand their space, with a $10,000 grant from the Student Veterans of America and the Home Depot Foundation.

“When the Veterans Alliance has their club meetings, we literally have to pack them in like sardines in the office,” said Stephanie Franklin, director of transition and parent programs at UNC Asheville, who coordinates veterans’ programs and services on campus. “We really want to have a nice lounge space for our veterans, as well as a space for them to study, to be able to do homework, and have a conference table for them whenever they have their meetings.”

With the planned renovations of Highsmith Union, Franklin hopes to use the Student Veterans of America grant to expand and renovate a larger space for the Veterans Alliance.

“It’s very important just because of the fact that they need a home base here on campus,” Franklin explained. “Especially when you think about the transition that they’re making from military life into higher education, those environments are polar opposites. In the military you have a very structured environment where you know what you need to be doing at any given time. Whereas when you come onto a college campus, there’s a lot less structure involved.

“So it’s important while they’re making their transition from one environment to another, for them to be able to have a space to connect with other students who know what that transition is like, and who actually may be going through that transition themselves, so they can support one another.”

Student veterans make up only about 1 percent of the population within higher education, Franklin said, so having space to help veterans make connections with each other is very valuable to them. “There’s an experience and a camaraderie that is developed through being in the military that is unlike any other. When they come onto a college campus, they’re seeking out other individuals who know what that experience is like.” It’s helpful to meet and connect with other veterans who have made that successful transition to college life, Franklin said.

The bigger space will also house a library and repository for resources for student veterans, facilitate collaborations between the Veterans Alliance and other student organizations, and be a designated space for Green Zone trainings, which helps participants develop an understanding for the challenges faced by student veterans.

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