Cornell is home to around 70 undergraduate student veterans and another 400 faculty and staff — and as of next fall, these veterans will have a dedicated space on campus.
On Feb. 16, the University announced a new program house for student veterans set to open in fall 2021. The residence, which will initially house 12 students and intends to grow, will be located at 625 University Ave near West Campus, once part of the Alice Cook House and previously home to the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity.
In 2017, Provost Michael Kotlikoff committed to increasing student veteran enrollment to 100 undergraduates over the following three years. Currently, Cornell enrolls 70 veterans or current service members, up from 24 when Kotllikoff made the announcement.
“I am pleased that our efforts have had successful results these past few years, and a dedicated program house for this valued and broad campus population will further support and enrich the Cornell experience for our student veterans and others with military connections,” Provost Kotlikoff said in a University statement.
Mark Minton ’23, vice president of the Cornell Undergraduate Veteran Association, said that the program house was a goal for the CUVA since its founding in 2015. The house will provide a platform for hosting guest speakers, special luncheons and overall be a resource center for student veterans.
“I think it will provide an extremely enriching experience and be a great source of comradery and community,” said Michael Sanchez ’23, affairs coordinator for CUVA, who plans on living in the house next fall.
While some student veterans such as Jennifer Cunningham ’22 will not be living in the program house this fall, they are looking forward to seeing the community that the house will help develop.
“I am hopeful for the future,” Cunningham said, “as this house will provide a much needed gathering place for veterans, ROTC students, staff and faculty to come together in collaboration.”
Reese Kemen ’24, a first-year cadet in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program with hopes to serve in active duty following graduation, saw the program house as a big step in making the University more accessible to the veteran community.
“The fact that Cornell has announced a program house solely for veterans demonstrates its commitment to supporting all members of the greater community, and hopefully, it can serve as a beacon of hope for other veterans who are pursuing higher education,” Kemen said.
Student veterans face unique challenges with 47 percent having children, only 15 percent being the traditional college age and 62 percent being first-generation students.
Kemen and other ROTC members on campus also noted the importance of having student veterans in the undergraduate community as they provide a wealth of skills and knowledge that contribute to a diverse campus community.
“Cornell has made an effort to be more inclusive to people of all backgrounds, and it is nice to see that there is an effort to improve the experience of the military-connected community,” said Emily Segal ’24, a first-year cadet in the Army ROTC.
For the veterans, this step places Cornell closer in line with its long and storied history intertwined with service members.
“The nations’ wars have been fought by Cornellians, and service members from across the country seek out that endeavoring spirit at Cornell,” said Minton. “We honor their legacy by growing our own future here on the Hill.”