UBC has committed to new initiatives that aim to make it one of Canada’s first “veteran-friendly” campuses by 2020. The university will provide programs and services specially designed for veterans including:
- specialized mental health and counselling support
- priority student housing
- social and recreational opportunities
- professional development courses
- a Royal Canadian Legion Branch, the first new branch established in British Columbia in more than 25 years
“As Canadians we owe so much to the veterans who have served and sacrificed for our country, preserving and protecting the freedoms we enjoy today,” said UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono. “In acknowledgement and appreciation of their service, we hope to ensure that when veterans complete their service and decide to pursue higher education there is a welcoming campus with the services and resources available to meet their unique needs.”
UBC has a long history of honouring and supporting those who serve our country. The university provided its students with military training for the First World War and later trained the returning veterans and their spouses on agricultural practices.
UBC’s veteran-friendly campus initiative is led by Marvin Westwood, founder of the faculty of education’s Centre for Group Counselling and Trauma (CGCT) and the Veterans Transition Program – a group-based program developed at UBC by psychologists and medical experts that has assisted veterans transitioning back to civilian life since 1997.
“For more than twenty years, UBC has been designing and delivering innovative programs to support the veterans’ community,” said Westwood. “I am proud of the work that has taken place and of this renewed commitment by the university to support veterans here on campus, now and into the future.”
As part of the initiative, the university will also revise its admission process for veterans to identify themselves as well as ensure staff and faculty members are more mindful when communicating about veteran-related topics.
“Many veterans, especially those who decide to pursue post-secondary education, may find it uneasy to adjust to civilian life after military service,” said Tim Laidler, CGCT’s executive director and a Canadian veteran who served in Afghanistan between his third and fourth year of studies at UBC. “They may not feel a sense of belonging on campus and feel isolated, because they don’t share the same experiences with their peers.”
Laidler says the new initiative will address this by connecting veterans with each other and the community through networking opportunities as well as dedicated space on campus.
“We hope the initiative will enhance our support for veterans in addition to the CGCT and the Veterans Transition Program,” said Blye Frank, dean of the faculty of education. “The program has supported more than 1,000 veterans to date, all of whom reported benefits of reduced trauma symptoms, decreased depression and increased self-esteem. The faculty of education is thrilled to be at the forefront of a pioneering enterprise and to assist with the veteran transition process.”
More than 75 veterans have returned to school this September with another 21 who will be taking CGCT’s professional development courses on human security and development to prepare for work in international non-profits.