New group created for faculty, staff and graduate students veterans

More than 1,000 military veterans work at the University, according to the Office of Human Resources.

Sarah Mai

Sarah Mai

by Gwiwon Jason Nam

The first veteran and military group for staff, faculty and graduate students launched at the University of Minnesota this month, providing members with resources, networking opportunities and a space to share experiences.

The Veteran and Military Affinity Group aims to layout an inclusive and accessible forum for University employees and graduate students who have served or are currently serving in the military.

“It’s such a wonderful thing to bring people together who are veterans, who can talk about the challenges of what it means to find a job or to be a veteran coming back from combat,” said Vic Massaglia, the group’s co-founder.

About 1,000 employees across campus are military veterans, according the the Office of Human Resources. The group believes there are approximately the same number of students veterans, according to Meagan Pierluissi, co-chair of the group. Currently, the group has about 30 members. 

“This is part of a larger effort here at the University to tell that veteran story more,” Pierluissi said. “We would like to see those stories shared more predominantly within our own community … to show that we are a core piece of the University, and we have a shared identity as veterans.” 

The group had its first meeting last week to get to know one another. All members come from different parts of the University, according to Jabra Kawas, co-chair of the group and an assistant director for One Stop & University Veteran Services.

Group members talked about their own military “language,” including acronyms. They also discussed some of the things they saw during their time serving in the military.

“That’s just something that is core to military people, and it was really nice to kind of get in the same room and feel relaxed and talking in that way,” Pierluissi said.

At the meeting, members discussed which food vendors and retail stores had the best veteran discounts, which is important to the University veteran community, she said.

“We eventually want to have a mentoring network where employees who are veterans potentially may be mentoring students who are veterans on campus,” Kawas said.

In the proposed group, any employees who are part of the affinity group could potentially mentor student veterans, according to Kawas.

University Veterans Services will host a veterans’ appreciation event Nov. 13 and the affinity group is one of the sponsors. The event will celebrate veterans on campus and recognize their contributions. 

The Veteran and Military Affinity Group also plans to launch a veteran identity campaign.

“Veterans are participating in this campaign, showing their identities as social and personal identities that they bring to campus … and sort of dispelling any misconceptions people may have of who is a veteran,” Pierluissi said.