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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘If no one else will do it, it’s gotta be me’: Trio of students bring back veteran organization

Mia Hennen
Larry Burks Sr. and Sierra Riley transport the chili for Veteran Students Organization’s first event of the year from the second to first floor of the Rhatigan Student Center on Feb. 13. Students were able to get a bowl of chili for $3, with the proceeds going to the organization.

When Tiffany Tucker graduated high school, she didn’t feel ready for college. Instead, she enrolled in the Air Force.

“I joined because I needed the structure,” she said.

Tucker was in the Air Force for six years, working as a radar, airfield and weather systems technician. 

Then, after years of rigid order, she felt she was ready to change course again and enrolled at Wichita State.

Now, Tucker uses her military experience to support veteran and civilian students as the president of a previously inactive club.

Going to college 10 years after finishing high school has its challenges, according to Tucker. Not only is the less structured schedule a shift from being in the military but so is getting used to being in classes again and having people assume that she, now 26, is a teenager.

“A lot of instructors tend to forget that there are adult learners in general in their classrooms and address the class as a whole as though they are on the younger side,” she said.

And then, just as she was getting used to being a student again, Tucker found herself in another new role. She noticed the number of organizations catering to students’ different interests and identities but felt there should be a group supporting military and veteran students. Then an adviser told her about the Veteran Student Organization (VSO), which used to fill this role but wasn’t operating anymore. 

At first, Tucker was focused on adjusting to campus life and her classes and was hesitant to take charge.

“As I saw more and more of the need for that sense of community, I was like, ‘You know what? If no one else will do it, it’s gotta be me,’” she said. 

Tucker was joined by Vice President Sierra Riley and Secretary John Navarro. The group said one of their next goals is to fill the rest of their board, including a treasurer position. Tucker said that the trio hosted a bingo event in March and is working on planning more events to draw student interest.

Other goals include partnering with veteran organizations outside the university and connecting student veterans with resources and opportunities, like internships. 

“Veterans themselves are a very small minority of students and even smaller population-wise around the United States, so they need the resources that they can get,” Navarro, a junior sociology major and Army Reserve member, said. 

According to the Pew Research Center, veterans make up 6% of the U.S. population.

Wichita State’s Military & Veteran Services office certified 446 veteran students this semester, according to Brady Marzolf, the military and veterans benefits coordinator, said. 

Tucker pointed out, though, that this number doesn’t account for all student veterans enrolled at WSU because veterans can choose to forgo some of their benefits or leave them for their children to use later.

Riley said she hopes to see the organization grow during her time as president.

“I feel like a lot of times when people aren’t a part of something or have never experienced something, they don’t really look at it,” she said. “I just feel like it’s important for everybody to know that, and you don’t have to be affiliated with the military or be a veteran to be a part of this organization.” 

Anyone interested in joining or learning more about the Student Veteran Organization can stop by the Military Student and Veterans Center in Grace Wilkie Hall or find the organization on Facebook

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About the Contributors
Ainsley Smyth
Ainsley Smyth, Reporter
Ainsley Smyth is a second-year reporter for The Sunflower. Smyth is a sophomore communications major with an emphasis in journalism and media productions. Her dream job is to travel back in time 30 years and then be a reporter for Rolling Stone. Smyth uses she/her pronouns.
Mia Hennen
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing.

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