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New U of U Center Will Focus on Veterans

May 10, 2010 — There are currently 23 million veterans in the United States – and over two million have joined those ranks since September 11, 2001.

More than a quarter of the new vets are facing serious health, psychosocial, family and employment issues related to re-entry into civilian life. At the same time, their training and experience contribute vital assets to the U.S. at home and abroad. Recognizing both the value and issues facing veterans since 9/11 has prompted scholars at the University of Utah to join forces on their behalf.

University of Utah President Michael K. Young today announced the University of Utah National Center for Veterans Studies (NCVS) – whose mission is to improve the lives of veterans and their families and further advance American values, prosperity and security.

Operated by the College of Social and Behavioral Science and S.J. Quinney College of Law, the NCVS will employ four principal strategies in pursuit of its mission:

  • applied research on veterans’ health and other issues
  • education and training, including a National Service Academy pilot project promoting the continuum of service for veterans
  • community outreach, service and engagement to assist veterans nationally and in Utah
  • non-partisan political advocacy on behalf of veterans

“Given the breadth and depth of veterans’ issues emerging over the last decade, the ability of the U to add an independent and scientifically informed voice is critical,” said retired Maj. Gen. Peter Cooke, director of the National Center for Veterans Studies.

The center is the first in the nation with such a broad scope and its ambition is based on a foundation of the U’s unique position to realize its promise. Geographically, the U is in close proximity to Fort Douglas, is adjacent to the George E. Whalen VA Medical Center and has an integrated medical center. The center will benefit from the faculty expertise in the College of Social and Behavioral Science and College of Law. Together, the colleges create a synergy of scientific inquiry, political awareness and advocacy on behalf of veterans, in addition to providing insight into national and international development, security, rule of law, human rights and conflict resolution. The College of Law faculty has extensive experience in Iraq and other countries of critical global importance.

The NCVS and its activities will help the University of Utah to serve an anticipated 500,000 veterans matriculating to college campuses in the next decade. There are 540 student veterans attending the U. Center leaders assert that the number of student veterans will increase quickly through the incentives of a veteran-friendly campus, relevant curricula, preparation for a continuum of service and financial support from the GI Bill and scholarships.

“The center’s research will aim to advance our understanding of the experiences, resilience and psychosocial risks of veterans and their families,” said David Rudd, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science. “But research won’t be enough. We intend to translate findings to policy recommendations and clinical interventions that will assist veterans throughout the country.”

Best Practices

Rudd announced two center activities that will take place within the next year. A “Best Practices” conference will be held the first quarter of 2011. The conference will feature researchers and practitioners addressing an ongoing veterans issue. Rudd announced that had pledged $75,000 to underwrite the conference costs. In addition, the center will conduct a survey of student veterans, targeting colleges and universities across the country. The survey will be used to identify student veteran needs so that higher education may administer services more efficiently and effectively.

National Service Academy

Dean Hiram Chodosh of the U’s College of Law announced the creation of a National Service Academy pilot program. The academy will initially recruit veterans from undergraduate and graduate programs in an attempt to utilize their unique talents, skills and experiences to use in U.S. diplomatic, technical and multidisciplinary capacities around the world. Academy students will take a series of core courses together as they pursue degrees in their respective individual majors. The academy is the first of its kind in the United States and is designed to serve as a model for similar national service academies at other colleges and universities.

“One way to honor and help our veterans is to recognize the invaluable contributions they can make if we properly channel their immense capacities back into both national service and key roles in the private sector,” said Chodosh.

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