On Sept.9th, 2019, UBC has announced its commitment to become Canada's first veteran-friendly campus by 2020 to further its support for the health and well-being of all current and future veterans on campus. From providing students with military training for the First World War to preparing today's veterans with the tools they need to succeed in life, UBC has a long history of honouring and supporting those who serve our country.
By becoming a veteran-friendly campus, UBC commits to 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 and a Royal Canadian Legion Branch, which will be the first to establish in more than 30 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.”
The initiative is led by Marvin Westwood, who is the founder of the faculty of education's Centre for Group Counselling and Trauma (CGCT) as well as the Veterans Transition Program – a group-based program developed at UBC by psychologists and medical experts that has been assisting veterans in 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 veteran identification 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 in 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.”
Laider 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 its support for veterans in addition to the CGCT and the Veterans Transition Program, which is now delivered by a national charity,” said Dr. 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.”
More than 75 veterans have returned to school this school year with an additional 19 who will be taking CGCT’s professional development courses on human security and development to prepare for work in international non-profits.