App State named Military Friendly School, earns Gold Distinction

Emily Broyles, Reporter

App State was named a 2019-2020 Military Friendly School for helping student veterans and those on active-duty succeed on and off campus. App State was also one of four schools that received the Gold Distinction Military Friendly rank in the nation in the large public category.

Program director of student veteran services Eric Gormly said military-affiliated students have access to faculty who specialize in military language and needs through tutoring and the Career Development Center. Military-affiliated students receive resources and contacts mainly through the Major General Edward M. Reeder Jr. Student Veteran Resource Center, which opened on the second floor of Plemmons Student Union in 2016.

“(The center) is centrally located on campus, so with that, it is also a single point of contact to where they can come in here and get the resources that they need, not just for the campus, but also for the community,” Gormly said.

With about 300 student veterans on campus, the center serves as a place where students can share the bond and past hardships of serving in the U.S. armed forces.

“This is an area where they can talk about things that they did in the military and nobody’s going to be like, ‘You can’t talk about that, that’s too disturbing,’” Gormly said. “They all feel comfortable within these walls.”

Gormly said he is sure the community has grown since the center’s opening, with 30 to 35 daily student visits and almost 7,000 total over the past three years.

“It’s almost, in a way, as if they’re coming to a mini military base,” Gormly said.

Gormly said he strongly believes the growth and camaraderie of the center have contributed to upholding the Military Friendly recognition and Gold Distinction.

“Since the center got here and the Student Veteran Services got here in itself, that’s when we started getting ranked in the top 10,” Gormly said.

In 2019, App State was ranked No. 12 as a military-friendly school by VIQTORY, yet Gormly is positive the center continues to benefit the military ranking and student body of App State.

David Judy, student veteran and vice president of the Student Veteran Association, said he is thankful to have found the center, as he wasn’t sure how to have a desired college experience as an older student with an uncommon background.

“You don’t think about how you’re going to interact, you just assume that you’re going to,” Judy said about his thoughts as a freshman student veteran on campus. “Part of you dreads it, part of you is excited for new opportunities.”

Judy, junior secondary history education major, found his new opportunity by speaking to fellow military-affiliated students, which gave him a community to thrive in.

“Instead of being just another student on campus, we come in here and we hang out with everybody else who’s dealing with the exact same issues,” Judy said.

Sam Reinier, senior social work major, sees the fellowship student veterans share while working her field placement in the center. Reinier comes from a military family, and although she’s not a veteran herself, she feels embraced in the center.

“It’s definitely a different environment in here,” Reinier said. “You really get that sense of belonging and community, which is super important to have for anybody, but especially student veterans.”

Reinier said she has noticed the dedication and discipline student veterans have in the center, which contributes to the strong military presence at App State.

“They’re really determined to come here and get their education,” Reinier said. “You see people come in here and they’re like, ‘Yeah I have to write this paper. I’m going to do it in an hour,’ and for the most part, they get it done.”