The University of Tulsa was one of fifty colleges to receive a grant from the Home Depot Foundation and Student Veterans of America as part of the Vet Center Initiative. TU Student Veteran Association (TUSVA) received $8,948 from the grant to renovate the Albert E. Schwab Veteran Lounge in Norman Village. The apartment is to be used for student veterans to have a place to relax between classes, host meetings and put on events for the program.
The Veteran Lounge, which was founded in 2009, will receive repairs to the walls and floors and add in a new game room, dining area, lobby and computer lounge for the student veterans to enjoy.
The University of Tulsa is one of 118 schools receiving the Post-0/11 GI Bill, and is a part of the Yellow Ribbon Program. The Yellow Ribbon Program helps veterans return to school by covering costs of tuition and other fees.
TUSVA President Kate Tillotson spearheaded the renovation. “When I got here in 2014, the TUSVA had an office in Fisher East,” stated Tillotson. “They held meetings once a month; it wasn’t very accessible.” The office-lounge was not American Disability Act accessible and was far away from where students had classes. Tillotson decided that something needed to change.
“We want this place to be comfortable, to feel like home,” stated Tillotson. In lieu of renovating the office in Fisher East, Tillotson reached out to the University of Tulsa administration, requesting a better, more comfortable location. In response, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Services, Earl Johnson, gave TUSVA a first-floor, two bedroom apartment in Norman Village.
“The Fisher East office was great, but it didn’t feel very comfortable. There’s a lot of emotional unpacking that happens here, and it’s better facilitated through a home-like environment,“ stated Tillotson. “It’s like going over to a friend’s house, but you never know which friend will be there.”
With their new location set, Tillotson applied for the grant, won it and set out to make the apartment into a home. The inside of the apartment has hardwood flooring, colorfully painted walls and many comfortable couches and chairs for the veterans to relax in. On one half of the apartment, TUSVA opened up the wall and created a relaxing, entertainment room. There they have Netflix, a PS3 and an old-school arcade machine, built by one of the veterans himself.
“It can play nearly 300-400 different games,” Tillotson said. “Almost any old arcade game you can think of, it’s here.”
In the other half of the apartment, TUSVA plans to make a comfort room for naps or private meetings. TUSVA often brings counselors onto campus for the veterans to talk to, and this second comfort room gives them a quiet place to talk. Outside the apartment is a patio with plenty of seating, plants and entertainment.
TUSVA has about 55 active members, around 36 of whom are veterans. Of these members, around 90 percent commute to and from campus each day. The Veteran House gives these commuters a comfortable place to interact with other students and relax during a busy school day. Any student veteran or Gold Star member can access the Veteran House through a four-digit PIN.
The Veteran House is an extremely welcoming environment. It’s a safe place for people to relax and just be themselves. TUSVA’s events are open to the public. Next year they hope to start tailgating again by moving their tailgate to Norman Village and hopefully becoming the largest tailgate at TU.