University News

University Dedicates New Space for Veteran and Military-Affiliated Students

The University community recently celebrated the grand opening of the Veteran Success Center, a newly renovated space in Sheffield Hall that includes a Vet Lounge and a welcoming place for veteran and military students to come together.

September 16, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Students make their own mark on the mural.

When Stephanie Villegas ’24 was serving in the U.S. Navy, she was a second-class damage-control person, a role she describes as “like a firefighter.” After her experience working on fire suppression systems, she is now studying fire protection engineering at the University of New Haven.

Villegas recently attended the grand opening of the newly renovated Veteran Success Center at the University – her first veteran-related event on campus. She says the first university she attended following her service didn’t have such a place for veterans, and she’s looking forward to spending time in this space.

“I felt lost there, and I’m excited about having this space on campus,” she said. “I think this lounge will bring everyone together. We can network, and we will have resources.”

Stephanie Villegas ’24 at the Veteran Success Center.

The University community recently gathered to celebrate the opening of the new Veteran Success Center in Sheffield Hall, hearing from several alumni who are veterans, as well as Ryan Noonan ’20, ’23 M.S. Manager of military and veteran's affairs for the University, Noonan welcomed everyone to the ceremony. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he served two combat deployments to the Anbar province in Iraq.

“The transition from military service back into the civilian world is difficult,” said Noonan, a candidate in the University’s graduate program in national security. “One of the biggest hurdles our nation’s veterans encounter is this transition back into ‘civilian life.’ The very opening of this Center speaks to our transition and the progress that we have made. The University has made a commitment to our military and veteran community, and we are dedicated to helping that community grow.”

Ryan Noonan ’20, ’23 M.S. by the Veteran Success Center staff offices.
‘Lots of space and resources’

As part of the celebration, the VA work study student mural project was revealed. Students dedicated more than 220 hours to the project, which represents the transition military and veteran community members experience, creating a mural with the words “Service to Scholar.” It has become a go-to motto, and it is now displayed in the Veteran Success Center.

Anthony Camera ’23, VA work study coordinator, says this space is important. As a veteran – he served in the U.S. Marines in the infantry and was deployed three times – he looks forward to the opportunities it will create for veteran and military-affiliated students to connect.

“It means a lot to me,” said Camera, a criminal justice major. “Although the University had a veterans lounge before, it was much smaller, and many people didn’t know about it. This space is centrally located on campus, and it offers lots of space and resources.”

The mural was created by Chargers for current and future Chargers.
‘It can be hard coming out of the military’

Community members were invited to make their own mark on the mural as part of the celebration. Chargers signed it and left messages for current and future military and veteran community members.

The mural was designed and created by student veterans, veteran family members, and art majors at the University – including Saoirse Presti ’25, who led its design and completion. A veteran, she served in the Air Force, completing her enlistment overseas with the Royal Air Force in England. She’s excited the mural will have a prominent place in the new Veteran Success Center, where it will help welcome Chargers for years to come.

“This space is great because this is a much bigger area than we had before,” said Presti, a graphic design major. “I hope it will help us meet and connect with each other. I hope the more than 200 student veterans can find this to be a space where they can make new friends like I have.”

In addition to the Vet Lounge, the Veteran Success Center includes a breakout room and staff offices. Villegas, the U.S. Navy veteran, is glad the University community came together to see it, and she looks forward to using the space along with her fellow Chargers.

“It can be hard coming out of the military,” she said. “It’s nice to have the space to be around other servicemembers again.”

Anthony Camera ’23 at the grand opening ceremony.