Student Veterans Association

Daryl Thomas

Orientation for student veterans is Sept. 2. UW-L student Daryl Thomas started the the orientation last year. Here he is pictured inside a submarine, the USS Jefferson City, in San Diego, Calif.

Student veteran organizes ‘From Combat to College’

After serving in the U.S. Navy, Daryl Thomas planned to go to college.

The one thing he forgot when he was 400 feet below sea level on a submarine? To mail in his $35 application fee. He found out about the minor glitch in his application when he arrived on shore in Japan and checked his email.

“My heart sank,” he said. “It’s hard to get mail when you’re under water.”

Luckily, Thomas’ girlfriend back home in the States could send in the fee and UW-La Crosse staff helped him secure housing.

Thomas started school at UW-L in September 2008, and he is well aware of the challenges veteran students face — even after applying for college from the other side of the world. That’s why he started “From Combat to College,” an orientation for incoming veteran students, last year. This year’s event is slated from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2.

“It’s important that veteran students attend so they understand all that is available to them,” explains Carol Oyster, UW-L professor and Student Veteran Association adviser. “Incoming students can get bombarded with so much stuff. We wanted to highlight what is important for vets.”

UW-L has more than 200 veteran students and 35 new, incoming veteran students this fall. At the orientation veteran students will learn about topics such as veteran’s benefits, counseling services, career planning and receive a campus tour. They’ll also learn about social opportunities and some of the perks of student life.

Thomas, SVA president, hopes the event attracts more members to UW-L’s Student Veterans Association. The group started during the 2005-2006 school year as a way for veterans to socialize, but has expanded to offer veterans resources and more. Within the last year, the group has become affiliated with the national organization, Student Veterans of America; an SVA website was created; and a student veteran seat was added to the UW-L Student Senate. In the fall, plans are in the works to open a new Student Veterans Center in the basement of the Cartwright Center, in a portion of the space previously occupied by Career Services. Thomas says it would be a place for veterans to meet, find resources and hold SVA meetings.

SVA continues to look for more resources for veterans. During the week of Aug. 29, UW-L faculty and staff will receive an online survey asking whether they are veterans. SVA ultimately would like to find faculty and staff veterans willing to be listed as resources for veteran students.

Improvements in resources for veterans at UW-L has led to SVA receiving UW-L’s Outstanding Student Organization award for the 2010-2011 academic year and UW-L was also placed on G.I. Jobs’ 2011 list of Military Friendly Schools.

Are you a student veteran?

Check out the Veterans’ Center website for upcoming veteran events, meetings and student veteran resources. Also, contact for more information about the SVA and veteran resources. UW-L has a new veterans benefits coordinator, Kathryn Hollon, who replaced Sharyn Lehrke after her May retirement. Hollon can be reached at 608.785.8751 or

What: “From Combat to College” orientation for incoming veteran students
Who: Any student veteran
When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2.
Where: Port O’ Call, Cartwright Center-Gunning Addition