Veterans Center to establish hub for SU’s military community

Veterans Center set to be hub for SU's military community

The $62.5 million state-of-the-art National Veterans Resource Center will provide services for students and campus.
Published: December 12, 2019

A long-storied relationship with the U.S. military will become even more affixed to Syracuse University with the opening of the $62.5 million National Veterans Resource Center in the spring.

The 126,000-square-foot multi-use facility will become the central hub for all things military at SU, consolidating all offices and services for more than 1,000 enrolled military-connected students in one location.

What was once the Hoople Special Education building at the corner of Crouse and Waverly avenues now gleams with reflective glass and hope for the future of student veterans.

“This is a situation where the veteran population is being handed this beautiful building and saying, ‘This is your home. This is where you’re all invited to come and be students and prosper,'” said Student Veteran Organization vice president Charlie Poag, a former Marine staff sergeant working on a public relations degree.

Donors and design work

One of the cornerstones of Syracuse University’s Campus Framework plan, the NVRC’s construction was funded in part by a $20 million donation from U.S. Navy veteran and 1968 SU alum Daniel D’Aniello and his wife Gayle.

Co-founder and chairman emeritus of the global investment firm The Carlyle Group, D’Aniello found professional success through his military service and entrepreneurship. Exemplifying the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment, D’Aniello supported student veterans with one of the largest single donations in Syracuse University history. The building will be named in the couple’s honor, and a grand opening ceremony will take place in April.

The NVRC was designed by SHoP Architects in New York City, who was awarded the contract in 2016 after the 28-participant design competition.

Rachel Lexier-Nagle of SHoP Architects described the NVRC as one of the boldest and most innovative initiatives contained within the campus framework.

“SHoP’s design communicated the cutting-edge nature of the project while also addressing the programmatic demands on the building, resulting in a building that is at once inviting to all and a specialized tool,” Lexier-Nagle said.

With construction management provided by LeChase Construction in Rochester, the NVRC will contain three classrooms, offices, an exhibition gallery, a 120-person banquet hall and café. Designed to be flexible, the building will have mobile wall units and open workspaces. The roof of the NVRC features a grassed deck and a shaded parade route for outdoor events and ROTC drills.

The focal point of the building is a 750-seat auditorium. Named for KG Tan, the same donor as the fitness floors in the Barnes Center at the Arch, the two-tiered room will be the largest raked floor auditorium on campus, complete with a full wall LED screen and a secure room for those seeking a lower stimulus environment. The green rooms, located east of the auditorium, can be physically and mechanically sealed off from the rest of the building to provide security to high profile guests.

Programming and research

The NVRC will house the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, the university’s internally-facing office that serves as the front door to any military-connected student that enrolls at SU. It will also be an anchor of the Institute of Veteran and Military Families, which drives the externally-facing veterans’ programs. Founded in 2011, the IVMF has promoted over 90,000 transitioning service members, veterans and military families.

The NVRC will also feature a research center, contributing to the IVMF’s position as a leading researcher in veterans affairs. IVMF Communications manager Leah Lazarz credits the university’s status as an R1 research institution in part to the work done through the institute.

“We have research on all aspects of veteran and service member life, (such as) employment, entrepreneurship, education, family readiness,” Lazarz said. “That research informs our programs as well so that we make sure we’re delivering programs to veterans on campus and across the country that meet their needs.”

One such program is the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans that teaches veterans and transitioning service members how to create and manage a business. The training program emphasizes the challenges and opportunities associated with being a veteran business owner and has expanded to nine other universities across the country.

Accessibility and innovation

With a focus on accessibility, the building is designed with a circular circulation plan. A ramp wraps around the auditorium, allowing people to move from the ground entrance to the third floor without the use of stairs or elevators.

Joseph Alfieri, SU’s director of Campus Planning, Design and Construction, said the design works to go beyond ADA compliance, pushing the envelope of accessibility. In addition to wheelchair accommodations, the building will have tactile maps in the main reception areas and tactile indicators on handrails and sidewalks to assist those with visual impairments.

The accessibility features are just part of how the university is working to help veteran’s life on campus. SU also participates in the federal Disability Services Liaison program through the OVMA. Disabled Student Veteran Liaison John Gibson, a former marine corporal studying in social work, said the NVRC will help bridge the gap between the students in need and the resources that are available.

“They’ve integrated that space with the resources that are not only within the campus but also within the community and within the nation,” Gibson said.

The NVRC is at the forefront of construction technology. Featuring high-efficiency glass and a top-of-the-line HVAC system, the building aims to be certified LEED Gold.

The curved wooden screen system, visible through the glass curtain wall serves as the aesthetic focal point of the design. Each piece of the system is measured with a laser and installed with a turnbuckle for maximum accuracy.

SU’s history with vets

Ranked the No. 1 private institution for veterans by Military Times for the second year in a row, SU has long been committed to the education of the nation’s military service people. Former Chancellor William P. Tolley helped pen the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, or as it is currently known, the G.I. Bill, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. Current Chancellor Kent Syverud and Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie have supported the construction of the NVRC to leave a lasting legacy of opportunity and empowerment for veterans.

Along with SU students, the resources and the new facility are available to veterans in the community and alumni to return for various programs and educational opportunities.

Peer Advisor for Veteran Education team leader Katy Quartaro, a former Marine sergeant finishing her public administration masters degree, participated in the archival research that will be displayed in the Ben Schwartzwalder Hall of Honor, an exhibit committed to honoring SU’s commitment to military service people since World War II.

“I’m interested to see how it develops as they might change out the kind of exhibits and as time goes on and new programs get integrated,” Quartaro said.

Student veterans say the opening of the National Veterans Resource Center will provide a much-needed facility on campus and will contribute to veteran students’ success. Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Casey Dawley is excited about the opportunities that the NVRC will present.

“Changing from being in the military to coming into school allows you a lot of freedom to express yourself. Your opinion has weight just as much as anybody else’s,” Dawley said. “I think that it’s phenomenal that the environment at Syracuse gives everybody a voice.”