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Veterans Appreciation Week

By Veterans, for Veterans

TOGETHER WE WILL

A group of students chat and laugh in the newly established Office of Student Veteran Life. Flags and crests for each branch of the armed forces adorn the matte purple and grey walls.

Support student veterans

The Student Veterans Support Fund helps the University create a welcoming and veteran-friendly campus through training and workshops, community events, and dedicated student veteran spaces as directed by the University’s Office of Student Veteran Life.

Give to the Student Veterans Support Fund


About Lindsay Zike

Lindsay Zike portrait crop

Hometown

• Born in Honolulu, Hawaii

UW education

• Bachelor’s degrees in Near Eastern languages and civilization, and Islamic studies
• Master’s student in international studies with a focus on the Middle East

Language fluency

• Persian Farsi

Role in the Navy

• Cryptologic technician interpretive

Fun facts

• Third-generation Navy
• Has a service dog named Emo

Located on the third floor of the HUB, the OSVL is laying the groundwork for the future of veterans on campus. It’s focusing on building relationships among faculty, staff and service members looking to complete their education. And it provides a place of gathering — and connection — for student veterans.

Completely staffed by student veterans, the Office of Student Veteran Life works to bridge the gap between the veteran community and the rest of campus.

Completely staffed by student veterans, the Office of Student Veteran Life works to create a sense of connection among veterans — and with the broader campus community.

The inspiration for the OSVL stemmed from graduate student Lindsay Zike’s personal experience as an undergraduate. Having arrived on campus after serving four years in the Navy and being medically retired, she made the challenging transition from military to civilian life largely on her own.

“I didn’t talk to anyone around me,” she says. “I didn’t fit in with my fellow college students.”

With the future of UW student veterans in mind, Zike set out to drive the change she wanted to see. She worked alongside several student veterans to establish the place she had been looking for all along.

“It feels amazing to be able to give this back to others,” Zike says. “It was huge to be able to lead the team to get this here, and I’ll always look back and be proud of this.”

“The space is instrumental,” says Air Force combat veteran Sam Powers, the office’s first director. “I’ve watched some wonderful connections and relationships develop here, and it has been instrumental in helping student veterans get through their classes. It’s also a safe place for student veterans, and I want to keep it that way.”

The Office of Student Veteran Life is a space for student veterans to gather, connect, socialize and study.

The OSVL is a space for student veterans to gather, connect, socialize and study.

The need for a safe space is indeed critical. With suicide currently the second-leading cause of death in U.S. veterans and PTSD rates close to 20 percent, the services the office will bring to campus will drastically impact the lives of veterans who return to school.

Thanks to the OSVL, student veterans have a space to connect with others who have similar experiences and backgrounds — helping to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness, which often can segue into deeper feelings of depression and self-harm.

Future trainings and a certification program the OSVL plans to offer will provide faculty and staff with a deeper understanding of issues and situations that may be difficult for veterans who are adjusting to student life.

Air Force combat veteran Sam Powers is the OSVL’s first director.

Air Force combat veteran Sam Powers is the OSVL’s first director.

And, as the OSVL gains momentum, both Zike and Powers hope it can become a full-service office for student veterans — offering in-house mental health services, educational and financial aid resources, career counseling and interactive programming.

The team has already gotten started. They have programmed social events that build a stronger community — like Veterans Night Out, an opportunity for student veterans and their families to bond and relax in the HUB games area. Mental health and wellness programming, like yoga and art therapy, are also in the works.

“It’s been incredibly rewarding,” Powers says of working at the OSVL. “These students blow me away every day. They’re ready for service, for getting up and going back into the world and doing good.”