The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) Director of the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs Major Raymond Spaulding is dedicated to ensuring FAMU continues to generate a variety of resources and opportunities for veterans on campus. With the creation of the new Veterans Center, Spaulding plans to provide a one-stop shop catering to all of the financial, academic, and various personal needs of FAMU veterans.
As renovations on the building continue, the new staff members in the Veterans Center have been preparing to take on the services that were previously offered to veterans, such as G.I. Bill certification, while expanding to provide additional resources.
The new space will include computers, group and individual study areas, a lounge, and staff offices. Spaulding said he is hopeful that the facility will be a place where students feel comfortable spending their free time between classes.
“We want to be able to have a way to get people the services that they may need and help them find additional resources that they may not know are available to them,” Spaulding said.
He added, “We don’t only want this to be a place where they get their G.I. Bill certified and then leave. We want to be able to help them with everything. The Veterans Center is dedicated with a staff in place to solely deal with their specific issues.”
Florida is currently home to 1.6 million living veterans, the second largest veteran population in the United States. Initially, the Veterans Center staff will focus on serving the current population of veterans already attending FAMU, but eventually Spaulding hopes to begin recruiting veterans both state and nationwide.
“Right now we’re really getting a true census of who’s on campus and what they need,” Spaulding said. “But we’re definitely planning to one day go out there and start recruiting vets and helping them find ways to utilize the special trainings they may have received in the military for various degree programs here at FAMU.”
Spaulding, a FAMU alumnus and U.S. Marine Corps retiree, said the office is still in a developmental stage with construction being done on the new facility and the newly hired staff adjusting to their roles. Spaulding said he is particularly proud that his staff is primarily comprised of veterans who can relate to the needs of the student population that they serve.
“I’m a FAMU graduate, and I’m also a veteran, so I get it,” he said. “On my staff, my assistant director is a veteran. We both used the G.I. Bill, so we have that first-hand connection with the students.”
Spaulding added that the addition of his assistant director, Lakeisha Holligan, is a huge asset because the staff will be a reflection of the growing numbers of female veterans in the world—something he sees as an unintended benefit of her joining the staff.
“We’re blessed to have a female veteran on board,” Spaulding said. “The population of female veterans is increasing, but the U.S. has kind of lacked in providing that additional support for them, so I think it’s wonderful that we will be able to provide that for our veterans at FAMU.”
Though many of the services offered to the female veterans on campus will be the same, Holligan, a Marine Corps veteran, said she brings a softer approach and a woman’s perspective that other female veterans will be able to relate to.
“When I was serving, a lot of my work involved helping other marines and sailors, so I’m really comfortable with helping people,” Holligan said. “The fact that there are so many opportunities for female veterans that people don’t know about, I think I’ll be able to illuminate that area a bit more.”
As the first “Purple Heart HBCU,” FAMU has been diligent in supporting and celebrating those who have participated in military service, and maximizing resources for veterans. The Veterans Center serves as one example of the University’s continuous efforts to ensure that veterans are provided the proper support on campus.
Feature Photo by: Ann Marie Harris, FAMU Sports Information