Foundation News

SPSCC’s Vibrant Veteran & Military Family Resources Center

By Ann Rogers-Williams

May 4, 2023

SPSCC's Veteran & Military Family Resources Center is a welcoming space on campus for students and their families who have served. In recent years, it has gone through a transformation thanks to the participation and collaborative support of student veterans and Veteran Specialist Michelle Erzen. Renovation plans for a larger space are in the works for fall 2023.

The Center is a resource hub providing information, support, and fellowship for SPSCC veterans, service members, and their families. Here veteran students can find help navigating college systems and internal college resources. By working with community partners Michelle and her team also ensure access to information about topics related to community life such as workshops about how to apply for a home loan or where to find quality mental health and family resources.

Three years ago, the original Veteran's Resource Center consisted of a small office space with a desk and two chairs. This physical setting limited interactions to two- or three-person meetings, creating a somewhat sequestered, less interactive environment. Since then, the collaboratively-designed Center has expanded to a larger, more inclusive space that gives students the option of having private space to study as well as common space for group gatherings and workshops.

"The students let me know what they needed to design a space to meet their needs." Michelle shared, "From couches to desks to snacks, they were the best experts on what worked well for them and we worked together to make that happen."

Now, the Veteran & Military Family Resources Center is the one of largest college-based, student veteran centers in Thurston County, serving over 400 veteran students at SPSCC. Having a larger physical space for the Center means more opportunities for new veteran student collaborations. One example of this is the Veteran Club, which fosters connections between SPSCC veterans, service members, and their families through social activities.

While the Center brings in valuable resources for veterans and military families through its community partnerships, it is also a welcoming space for veteran students who want to hang out and share their wisdom. As Michelle Erzen pointed out, “Students also help each other by sharing what they know from their own experiences. They may know of new resources or share feedback about existing resources that have or have not worked well for them. That’s important to know.”

The diversity of life experiences shared by students also dynamically influences the Center. Michelle and her team work with students to ensure the Center is responsive and relevant to the individuals it serves. “We have older and younger students who have had very different kinds of military experiences.” Michelle explained, “We also
have veteran students who have very different kinds of life experiences, including a few students who are homeless. We try to meet everyone where they are and connect them to resources that will help them be successful.”

As the Center continues to grow, its rich programming will provide a platform to connect veteran students and their families to essential resources, training, and social activities. In response to that growth, Michelle and her team plan to move the Center to a larger space in the same building in fall 2023. Although the move is only a few doors down from their current location, the larger space will mean more opportunities for students to have resource workshops and presentations, as well as spaces for private study, meetings, and gatherings.

Visit the Veteran & Military Services webpage to learn about the services the center provides.