Club Q&A: Student Veterans Association


Mariami Kentchadze

A peek inside the Student Veterans Association office located in Hubbard’s basement.

Mariami Kentchadze, Special Assignments Reporter

Utica University is an educational institution that allows students to be involved in the community by housing various organizations. One of these organizations is the Student Veterans Association (SVA) on campus.

The mission of the SVA is to assist veterans in the successful transition to college life, encourage social engagement, enhance academic success and improve the local veteran environment.

The Tangerine conducted an interview with Jack Givens, associate professor of cybersecurity and the advisor of the SVA, and Nathaniel Illingsworth, the current club president who contributed significantly to creating the club.

Q: Why was the Student Veterans Association (SVA) created?

A: The student veterans’ organization at Utica University is a formally organized chapter of Student Veterans of America, which is the nation’s largest organization supporting and advocating for student veterans. Our chapter was incorporated in 2018. It’s important to note that Utica University was founded largely to serve veterans returning to the United States from World War II in 1946. So, our institution’s history, and our support to student veterans, are deeply intertwined.

Q: Who created SVA?

A: The SVA at Utica University was first created through the efforts of a Utica alumnus named Clayton Hawes, an Army reservist and cybersecurity major who served as our chapter’s first president. He and a group of fellow student veterans formed the first leadership team. Prior to their efforts, student veterans were supported through an ad hoc network of Utica faculty and staff.

Q: Why is SVA important for people individually?

A: Student veterans are an essential part of our institution’s diversity. Advocating for and supporting student veterans is a moral imperative and the right thing to do for our society and our institution. According to data from the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, less than 0.5% of the U.S. population is serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces. So, we are talking about a very small minority group. Among college students, veterans have a wealth of experience that enriches our institutional culture, including world travel, leadership, initiative, self-motivation, discipline, and a well-developed sense of personal responsibility and accountability. Getting involved with the SVA at Utica University means you are helping to promote and sustain these things within our institution. And that benefits us all.

Q: How can students help out and support SVA more?

A: Contact Nathan Illingsworth, our president, or Jack Givens, our faculty advisor, to learn more about how to get involved. Coming to meetings, helping organize programming and fun excursions–everything helps. Our strength comes from member involvement and enthusiasm. Whether you have a personal connection to the armed forces or not does not matter. All are welcome.

Q: About the veterans’ lounge

A: We have a dedicated lounge located in Hubbard Hall, B12, for which we are extremely grateful to the Utica University administration. It features a flat screen TV, coffee maker, computer workstation, and comfortable seating. It’s a great place to study, meet or just relax. At the moment the SVA uses it primarily for meetings, though we anticipate using it for other purposes in the future, too.