UMass Boston

UMass Boston Cuts Ribbon on New Student Veteran Center

05/15/2024| Crystal Valencia

On May 7 campus leaders, students, faculty, alumni and friends gathered to cut the ribbon on a new permanent location for the Student Veteran Center on the first floor of McCormack Hall.

Campus leaders and students cut the ribbon on a new Student Veteran Center.

For Troy Hewitt and many of his fellow student veterans and military-affiliated students at UMass Boston, the Student Veteran Center has become their home on campus.

“The center provides a place for veterans to be with those who they know, to a degree, understand what they have been through,” said Hewitt, a nursing student and Army Reserve medic who serves as coordinator of the center. “I found students that had been through some of the same life experience as me, and even though we all came from different walks of life, we could all connect over our common bond of service.”

This home has received a long-anticipated upgrade.  

On May 7 campus leaders, students, faculty, alumni and friends gathered to cut the ribbon on a new permanent location for the Student Veteran Center on the first floor of McCormack Hall. The center features computers, workstations, and meeting areas for students to use. It also has a lounge, new furniture, a kitchen, and other amenities.

“As we can see, the new center is a thoughtfully constructed, multipurpose space that balances openness and welcoming with an esprit de corps,” said Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco.  “Indeed, the new space retains the longstanding spirit, culture, and character of the Student Veteran Center and will enable UMass Boston to provide even more robust services and academic support to our Beacons who are called to military service.”

The UMass Boston Student Veteran Center is a student-run center that serves as a resource and connection hub, which provides a wide range of support and information to student veterans and military-affiliated students.

“This wonderful space is the culmination of collective effort, dedication and support from colleagues across UMass Boston who share a commitment to our student veterans, but also the unique and diverse individuals that comprise our military-affiliated student community,” said Jen Maitino, associate dean and director of housing and residential life.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Karen Ferrer-Muñiz said opening this space held a special meaning to her as the daughter of a Korean and Vietnam War Army veteran.

“That’s how much this space means to me to help provide that space in which you can grow and find opportunities and network, and I know that is why many of us are here today,” Ferrer-Muñiz said. “I am excited for next year. I can’t wait for so many of the events and programming that will come out of here.”

Chancellor Suárez-Orozco said that “belonging” will remain a central theme as the campus continues to be transformed in the months and years ahead.

“Building community and bringing people together is an important part of our mission,” he said. “And this refresh marks another step in this direction for our Beacons who have served, are serving, seeking to serve, and are the partners or children of those who serve.”

Troy Hewitt speaks at the ribbon cutting.

 Hewitt spoke of feeling lost during his first semester at UMass Boston. A medic in the Army Reserve, he decided to begin his college career on his 21st birthday, when he realized he loved medicine and taking care of people.

“My first semester here I was lost, for lack of a better word. I was a bit older than the students I was in classes with, and felt I had nothing I could relate to them,” Hewitt said. “I pushed my way through that semester, but honestly dreaded the return for my second semester. But when I arrived that first day of the fall semester I saw a sign for the Student Veteran Center. …This is when things began to change for the better for my entire college career. … I had finally found a home on campus.”

UMass Boston is home to over 600 veterans and military-affiliated students.

“I have seen student veterans from this university go on to be medical professionals, engineers, business owners, and many more professions that drive this country every day, many of whom have also found a home at this very center,” Hewitt said.

John Sears, who co-advises the center with Professor Paul Dyson, thanked the William Joiner Institute for hosting the Student Veteran Center over the past year and a half while they awaited their new home.

“Our residency in the Joiner Center has bolstered collaboration, and the SVC is committed to seeing the partnership and collaboration continuing,” Sears said.

Sears said that as soon as he started working for the Student Veteran Center, he came to understand that at its core was an informal, yet deep sense of providing comradery and connection to military-affiliated students and veterans, so that students had a base to establish themselves, adjust to university life, and branch out to the greater university community.

“Regardless of where we call home, the students have built a home where they can retreat to connect, study, and converse,” Sears said.

Students and staff at the SVC ribbon cutting