UVU Opens New Veteran Success Center

Veteran Success Center Ribbon-Cutting

Veteran Success Center

Utah Valley University has a long history of providing support to veterans. In order to better support them, UVU has opened a new Veteran Success Center. Employees, community members, and veterans were invited to celebrate with a special breakfast and ribbon-cutting ceremony in January. The new center opened last October and will serve between 800 and 1,000 students.

The center is essentially a “one-stop for veterans,” as its director, Sheldon Holgreen, put it. He explained that the center’s mission is to assist veterans in registration, graduation, and finally job placement. The center’s staff members provide robust mental health resources, certify benefits, navigate Veterans Affairs resources, and also provide veterans’ families with support. The center offers a place to convene and receive healing and will honor those who have given so much on our behalf.

The Western Front, 100 Years Later

Person reading The Western Front: 100 Years Later

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony for UVU's Veteran Success Center, the final product of a project between UVU's veterans and the School of the Arts was revealed. The book "The Western Front: 100 Years Later" resulted from a student trip to Europe. Art students who are also veterans wished to learn more about WWI and where it took place. With the help of faculty, they compiled their experiences, including photography and illustration, and produced a book to share with others. It exemplifies UVU's mission of engaged learning.

This beautifully made book gives insight into what took place during WWI 100 years ago and is a tribute to the sacrifices our veterans have made. The book is available for purchase at uvu.edu/arts/books. All proceeds will support future engaged learning projects for the arts.

The Struggle Our Veterans Face

UVU student veterans salute during flag ceremony

Greg Augustine, a veteran and current student, never served overseas, but serving as a medic for four years, he tended to those who came back injured. He dealt with gunshot wounds as well as double and even triple amputees. Any soldier who came from the war zone, Augustine helped to transfer back home.

Greg loved being a medic but decided to pursue a greater calling by becoming a doctor. Having had everything outlined for him in the military, he was fearful of transferring back to civilian life.

“All I could think of was that I didn’t want to be a homeless vet. I didn’t want to be a vet who left to pursue something greater and fell short,” he said.

When first coming to UVU, he stopped by the veteran center. That’s where he found the help he needed to get through school and find work.

In an unscripted moment, an audience member and veteran stood to speak about his experience. Keith Renstrom was a Marine Corps master gunnery sergeant on the beach of Iwo Jima during WWII.

“I have to say, the hardest thing for a veteran to face is the first blood,” said Keith. Keith remembers vividly that a boy named Chris was the first blood he saw. He was killed before he was seventeen years old because he lied about his age. “I don’t care who you are or what you are – Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard – this is a life. So I have to thank you for what you are doing, and I have to salute.”

With the help of his son, Keith then stood up from his wheelchair and saluted.

Supporting Our Veterans

President Hollan and UVU staff cut Veteran Success Center ribbon with Director Sheldon Holgreen and WWII veteran Keith Renstrom

UVU’s core theme is student success. It is about doing everything we can to give students the opportunities and resources to succeed. That is why our veteran center is called the Veteran Success Center.

Just before the ribbon was cut for the center, UVU President Matthew S. Holland shared a portion from a speech Ronald Reagan gave in 1984, exactly 40 years after the storming of Normandy in WWII.

“We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the sixth of June, 1944, 225 rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. ... After two days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity.”

After reading these words President Holland exclaimed, “That’s why we’re here today, because our country is behind our veterans. Utah Valley University is behind our veterans. You put everything on the line for us.”