TU’s Home for Veterans

Dena Allen-Few ’19 arrived at TU as a transfer student from Baltimore City Community College. In her first years on campus she would show up for class and hand in her assignments, but otherwise basically keep to herself.

Then she discovered the Military and Veterans Center.

“The center and its students changed the trajectory of my life,” says Allen-Few, who served in Army Reserve from 1999–2006 and now works as the center’s program management specialist. “The relationships I developed here will follow me for years to come.”

Established as a sort-of home base for veterans at TU, the center’s mission is to provide educational, social and personal enrichment opportunities for the university’s military community. About 200 veterans currently are TU students. Their median age is 27, but some are in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

“A lot of them are very nontraditional students,” says Dario DiBattista, who served in the Marine Corps and now is the center’s director. “If you do four or five years in the military, you’ve traveled the world, you’ve been in charge of people—those are experiences that traditional incoming freshmen can’t necessarily relate to. So it’s important for them to have their own space.”

That can be found at the center’s home in the Psychology Building, where veterans can relax, study, watch TV or socialize with people who have similar backgrounds.

It was a godsend for Allen-Few, 38, who spent a year deployed to Iraq. Prior to coming to TU, she never discussed her service and actually worked hard to hide it. Reluctantly, she started going to the center to study, headphones firmly in place.

“I was giving ‘don't talk to me vibes,’ but it didn’t work,” she says. “There was one student who would engage me in conversations. Next thing I knew we were going out for a drink and I was meeting other veterans for the first time in a decade. I had found a place with people who understood what it was like to be deployed, to be in combat and all of the baggage that comes along with that.”

When she graduated in May, she proudly wore her veteran honor cord.

“Dena from two years ago would never have done that,” she says. “I am so thankful that I am able to give back to the community that fostered who I have become.”

-By Mike Unger