From Service Member to Student, Expanded Veterans Resources Show Military Matters at A&M-Corpus Christi

By Olivia Santos | Published: July 07, 2020

From Service Member to Student, Expanded Veterans Resources Show Military Matters at A&M-Corpus Christi

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Stepping off the line of duty and into the classroom can be a complicated shift for those who so bravely served our nation. The transition from active duty life to life as a student veteran doesn’t happen overnight. It can take months or even years to adjust to the rigors of academia, which is demanding, but different than putting duty, honor, and country before self.

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi acknowledges and appreciates its student veterans in many ways and has continued to increase its resources and offerings, thanks to support from the local business community.

In fall 2017, the Island University created the Veterans Resource Center (VRC). Members of the campus community who work regularly with student veterans, along with several student vets, were involved in the planning and development of the center. One of the first programs implemented by the VRC was a student veterans’ orientation to assist with the transition from active duty to student. In 2019, Arthur Montiel was hired as the first full-time Veterans Resource Center Coordinator.

“Many of these men and women come in here not knowing a lot of people, and we want them to know we’re here for them, we’re here to help, and we’re not going to let them fail,” Montiel said. Montiel served for six years in the United States Army and is currently working on a master’s degree at A&M-Corpus Christi.

“We’ve also started holding a formal ceremony the week of commencement to recognize student veterans who’ve made it to the finish line,” Montiel said. “The ceremony gives their families, friends, and colleagues a chance to honor them for making it to graduation. We don’t want them to think this is any small feat; we want them to know this is a great achievement.”

Montiel’s office is also a one-stop shop to help active-duty military and student veterans in need of employment, housing, and mental health resources. His office also stays connected with the local veterans’ community and creates connections between different generations of service.

Demonstrating support for Montiel and the Island University’s efforts to increase programming support for student veterans, Cheniere Energy, Inc. made a $30,000 gift toward programming for the VRC in fall 2019. Because of this gift, the VRC has been able to hire a tutor for student veterans, is working to expand its career transition programming, and will support community service projects and additional events to promote engagement and camaraderie among student veterans. Cheniere hopes that their support will help raise awareness in the Coastal Bend of the importance of resources for student veterans.

“Cheniere is humbled by the sacrifices that veterans and military service members have made. For that reason, Cheniere is committed to giving back through program funding supporting student veterans, and we are proud to support TAMU-CC’s Veteran’s Resource Center,” Ari Aziz said. Aziz is Vice President and General Manager of Cheniere’s Corpus Christi LNG facility.

Cheniere’s effort to raise awareness for veterans’ needs mirrors the intentions of the Student Veterans Organization (SVO). One of the most recent SVO projects led to the establishment of designated Purple Heart parking spaces on the Island campus.

“We wanted to take on a project that would not only honor our veterans, but would also help to make their life a little bit easier,” SVO President Jackson Gray said. “When we thought about it, we agreed a group that deserved this recognition were Purple Heart Veterans – those who end up sacrificing more than the rest of us.”

Two parking spaces are now marked at the University’s Turtle Cove and Momentum Soccer Field parking lots for combat wounded veterans, with hopes to designate at least one to two spaces in each parking lot on campus in the future.