A space of their own

New Veteran & Nontraditional Student Services Office offers a unique lounge for those who served

A student receives tutoring in the recently-opened Veteran Student Lounge in McCannel Hall. The Veteran & Nontraditional Student Services office has spent the past year in the midst of a remodel, including the creation of the lounge. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

A UND student receives tutoring in the recently-opened Veteran Student Lounge in McCannel Hall. The Veteran & Nontraditional Student Services office spent the past year in the midst of a remodel, including the creation of the lounge. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

You wouldn’t know it by visiting now, but the Veteran & Nontraditional Student Services office in McCannel Hall’s Room 170 has been quite the work-in-progress.

Since moving in last August, Jessica Reule and her team occupied an area in need of an upgrade. Previous occupants left behind cubicles, partition walls and a space that wouldn’t work for UND’s veterans.

“[We] immediately asked if we could update the space,” said Reule, who serves as UND’s veteran and nontraditional student services coordinator. In creating a clean slate, she also saw potential for something students had been asking for.

Making space

The back portion of the office now houses the Veteran Student Lounge, a space dedicated to further supporting veteran students and something that was sorely missed before the move to McCannel.

“When we were in the Memorial Union, we had a small veteran’s lounge but it was more like an open lobby,” Reule said. “We looked at other campuses around the country and many of them have lounges. So we wanted to make sure we were keeping up to date with what other universities have to offer.”

Separated from the rest of the office by two entrances, the Veteran Student Lounge has a cozy yet utilitarian feel. High-top tables and a row of computers meet with an entertainment center and more casual amenities. There are two smaller rooms that Reule designated as quiet study spaces. How the lounge evolves will be based on student feedback and how the space is utilized.

“We want the students to talk to us and tell us what they want …,” said Reule. “We’ve done student surveys and this was something that they requested, their own space to get away — their quiet little niche on campus.”

The Veteran Student Lounge in the office of Veteran & Nontraditional Student Services combines space for productivity and socializing. An entertainment center is flanked by high-top tables and computer stations. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

The Veteran Student Lounge in the office of Veteran & Nontraditional Student Services combines space for productivity as well as socializing. An entertainment center is flanked by high-top tables and computer stations. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Combining forces

As for the delays in remodeling, much of it has been attributed to material availability. For instance, UND-specific carpeting throughout the office took more time to acquire than anticipated. Reule, who headed up the designs and selection of materials, found it tricky to develop a satisfactory, yet neutral appearance.

“We had to be mindful with all the different colors,” Reule recalled. Many colors such as red, blue and green are symbolic to various military branches. “So we’re doing UND, with some nods to the military. It’s kind of neutral, but it took a lot of thought to figure out how we can do this so everyone will feel comfortable.”

Her approach is one that she sees as standing the test of time. The office décor closely resembles other areas of UND that have recently seen upgrades and remodeling.

One change with the McCannel location has been sharing space with the Veterans Educational Training Program (VET). The program, funded by the State of North Dakota and administered by North Dakota State in Fargo, provides tutoring services primarily to prospective veteran students. VET Site Coordinator James Becks described his role as a holistic approach.

“The students that we serve have a wide academic range and potential issues,” Becks said. “We take each student on a case by case basis and prepare them to succeed.”

Aside from tutoring, the program helps students in the acclimation process to academia, which Becks says covers a wide variety of items. They also offer courses focused on getting students to the freshman level of college in English, math and computer skills.

In utilizing a classroom-type area that’s attached to the lounge, Becks sees the benefits of combining forces.

“I feel the move has enhanced both of our offices,” he said. “Having one space makes accessing our services easier for veteran students and staff. Also, having the lounge and study areas in our space is a tremendous draw.”

Meeting goals

Sherry Lawdermilt, UND Director of Administrative Services Technology and project manager for UND’s Strategic Plan Goal No. 6 (meeting the educational needs of the military), attended the office’s open house and renovation unveiling recently.

Jessica Reule

Jessica Reule

“I was very impressed with the transformation of the space,” Lawdermilt told UND Today. “Jessica Reule and her team have done an amazing job of making a welcoming space for our veterans.

“Developing this type of space on campus aligns with the objectives of the Goal 6 team and how we want to better serve this student population.”

About one in seven students on campus have a military background.

Reule described students with a military background as particularly driven. Many of them deserve a space where support is abundant and circumstance is understood.

“This lounge allows them the space to not only focus and have a quiet spot to work,” Reule said. “But it also allows them to meet up with other students that have been through similar life experiences.

“It’s providing a support network for those students that they cannot get elsewhere. That’s why it is so important for us to have the lounge and be a welcoming place for all of our military students.”