- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Student Veterans of America: A Good Resource for Your College Career

by Heidi Lynn Russell, Contributing Editor

Share |

Article Sponsored by: Tronox

Return to July/August 2016 Issue

Iliana Smiley, a former Army Reserves Specialist, found herself commuting up to an hour-and-a-half to Texas Woman’s University four days a week. As an off-campus student, she had nowhere to go to study in between classes on extended days. That may not sound like a big deal to some people, but for Smiley, that inconvenience could have severely hampered her ability to do well in school.

That’s where the Student Veterans of America (SVA) came into the picture - with a dedicated lounge on campus specifically for veteran students. It was outfitted with places to eat and microwave meals, two computers and study areas, a never-ending supply of coffee and even a sofa where Smiley found herself crashing for naps more than once.

“I had somewhere to go. People don’t expect they’ll have two- or three-hour gaps in between classes, but when finishing school, it helped to have an area that was safe for me. I didn’t have to worry about people stealing my backpack while I slept, because it was a place just for veterans. And there were two advisers for SVA where I could go to their office and get help, and that was nice, too,” Smiley says.

Although the lounge is a nice benefit, the Student Veterans of America is so much more than that. If you go back to school, this organization has resources in place to connect you with other veterans, shore up financial support and even lobby your concerns about veteran education issues on Capitol Hill. Here are a few facts about the SVA and ways you can connect:

• The 501(c)(3) nonprofit group is a coalition of more than 1,300 student veteran chapters, representing more than 540,000 veterans in higher education nationwide. Their mission is to provide you with resources, support and advocacy as you enter college and launch your career after graduation. To find the chapter at your campus, see

• This May, the group announced it had surpassed the $1 million mark in total academic scholarship dollars awarded to student veterans since 2011. SVA has awarded 121 scholarships to veterans nationwide. Check this fall for scholarship opportunities at

• The group closely studies and analyzes the student veteran population to advocate for you effectively. It issues a “Spotlight” report to reveal new insights. This year, the report uncovered that a large group are enrolling in school after retiring in their 40s, for example.

• Since 2014, the SVA Vet Center Initiative has built and improved veteran spaces on 61 campuses, much like the one Smiley experienced at Texas Woman’s University. To help, The Home Depot Foundation has offered $400,000 to 50 SVA chapters for their “vet centers.”

• SVA provides “Leadership Summits” for student veterans, in which chapters share best practices for supporting their students on campus. The summits are hosted in multiple locations nationwide each summer. For the 2016 Leadership Summit schedule and locations, see

• SVA’s Government Affairs Department team works closely with the federal government and Congress to promote forward-looking policies on veteran education and employment. The team has testified on such issues as the Transition Assistance Program, veteran student debt and the Veteran Success on Campus program.

Heidi Lynn Russell writes about employment and business issues.

Return to July/August 2016 Issue