Students Launch King Hall Veterans Association
The King Hall community includes dozen of active student organizations, including groups based on legal interests, ethnicity, recreational activities, and other shared experiences and concerns. Yet until very recently, there was no group to represent one very unique category of students: veterans of military service.
The King Hall Veterans Association (KHVA) has changed that. Formed by Michael Van Derwood '15 and Tara Hutzol '14 during the 2011-12 academic year, the group ramped up activities during 2013, hosting an inaugural Veterans Dinner, working to streamline and clarify the enrollment process for veterans who are prospective students, and offering fellowship, support, and networking opportunities.
"I think the Veterans Association is a good idea, and one that I hope to support, because like the other affinity groups at King Hall, veterans have gone through something no one else has," said Gary Solis '71, a retired U.S. Marine with 26 years of active duty, including tours in Vietnam and service as a Marine judge advocate and military judge. He has taught law at the United States Military Academy, George Washington University, and other institutions, and as a visiting professor at King Hall.
"It's difficult to describe to someone who hasn't gone through it what it's like to be a soldier, sailor, or marine, or to have been in any branch of military service, especially for those who have been in combat," Solis continued. "That is a unique experience that in a way separates those who've been through it from others, so to have a group where you can talk to others about similar experiences I think is helpful, not only to the individuals as individuals but as students of the law, and I think it's to the benefit of King Hall to have such a group."
"First off, having a group like KHVA provides a level of familiarity, being with people who have undergone similar experiences, as veterans have," said Steve Suchil '80, an Assistant Vice President at the American Insurance Association who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1966-70 and who has been working to support the KHVA. "Secondly, the second- and third-year students can help the first-year students, can teach them about the new environment, what to expect, what to do, how to learn and thrive."
"King Hall is very welcoming to everybody, and I think veterans feel very welcome here, but it is still nice to have a group of peers who really understand each other's experiences," said Van Derwood, a captain and logistics officer with the U.S. Marine Corps from 2005-2011. "We can use the group to support each other, but we're not just doing this for ourselves. We feel like the group can be a benefit to King Hall as a whole, too."
The KHVA already has made it easier for veterans to apply to King Hall by working with the law school and UC Davis administrators to clarify the process of applying for benefits and posting the information online at the King Hall Veterans Association website. For the first time, veteran status is part of the information collected by the School of Law from prospective students, and the KHVA is reaching out to veteran applicants to encourage them to attend if accepted.
"We think all of this is going to contribute to higher recruitment and retention for veterans, and we think that will be a good thing for veterans and for King Hall," said Van Derwood.
Additionally, the enthusiasm of the KHVA has spurred the creation of an endowed fund to support King Hall Veterans. Those interested in supporting this effort may contact Christian Rockwood, Associate Director of Annual Gifts, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"As a group, veterans tend to gel very quickly," Van Derwood said. "When we have something we want to do, we come together and get it done. We want our veteran alumni to know that we have an active group, we have a plan, and we are executing it."