Tarleton creates lounge for veterans
By Bailey Rae Poer ––
If you take a look at Tarleton State University’s list of goals and goal directives, you will see words such as: excellence, transformation, distinctive engagement and exemplary service. There’s one feature on campus that represents all of these goals– the Tarleton Veterans Affairs Lounge.
The idea behind the lounge began within the Granbury Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Wayne and Deby Kyle, parents of American war hero Chris Kyle. The group organized a fundraiser which included a silent auction and other various forms of donations. As well as organizing the event, the Granbury VFW hosted the fundraiser and the money was then donated to Tarleton with the goal of supporting veterans on campus in mind. The lounge provides just this support.
The lounge, which is located next to the Office of Veteran Services in the Tarleton Center, features several computer work spaces, a couch, tv, snacks and drinks. One component that the lounge encompasses is a map of the world where veterans are encouraged to place pins that are color coded to their specific military branch where they have been stationed. The first pins on the map included those of the Granbury VFW members who are Veterans of the Vietnam War.
“The idea behind the lounge was to have a place for veterans on campus where they are able to get away from all of the hustle and bustle of the rest of campus as well as have it close to the veteran services office in case questions about services provided, healthcare, etcetera arise” said Stephanie Kittelson, assistant director of Veteran Services.
The veteran services office not only houses the lounge but is the “hub” for veteran support on campus as they process VA education benefits, including providing a link between the students and other resources that can help them achieve success.
Veteran students account for 250-300 students on campus per semester. Around 750-800 veterans at any given time are enrolled at Tarleton. That number includes students from other Tarleton campuses and online, according to Kittelson. The lounge is open to anyone on campus, but was created with veterans in mind. The drive behind the lounge was to keep a supportive culture.
“Maybe you have a veteran who the library or student center just isn’t their scene, there’s too much going on, ping pong balls bouncing everywhere, a lot of noise, big wide-open rooms, etc. That’s just not comfortable for everyone,” Kittelson explained.
The lounge provides a space where these students can get away and sit and work where it is a more secure, quiet area. Kittelson referred to the lounge as a “home base somewhere where you know you can go find people that think and act like you and just hangout.” The veteran services office itself is full of veterans as everyone excluding the receptionist is affiliated with the military.
A portion of the inspiration behind the lounge came from a personal story of Kittelson herself, who attended Tarleton from 2012 to 2015. A non-traditional student who was commuting around an hour to class found that there were days where she had ample amounts of time between classes. She tried sitting in the student center and the library, but felt uncomfortable. She then decided to sit in her truck between classes in order to get away.
“If I would have had something like this lounge, something slightly more private, a place to escape to, with the tv and entertainment I would have definitely used it,” said Kittelson.
The lounge is open in correlation with the Office of Veteran Services Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more about the lounge or any services the veteran services office offers, contact Stephanie Kittelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 254 968-1805.