San Marcos,
16:26 PM

CSUSM Breaks Ground on New Veterans Center

By Margaret Chantung

A ceremony on Friday, Nov. 8 at CSUSM celebrated the groundbreaking of Ecohabit, an award-winning, zero-net energy solar house created by a team of interdisciplinary Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) students in Hoboken, N.J., and donated to Cal State San Marcos for use as its new Veterans Center.

Ecohabit, which won fourth place in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, will support CSUSM’s commitment to serving its significant student veteran population.

“We take great pride at Cal State San Marcos in serving our military and supporting those people who have served us so well,” said President Karen Haynes. “Today puts us right over the top in terms of excitement about this facility and how it will continue to help us serve our veteran and active duty students and their dependents. This new building will be a hallmark on this campus. It will be a place for coming together, for conversations, for support and for celebration.”

CSUSM: A Veteran-Friendly Approach to Higher Education

Cal State San Marcos, founded in 1989, was the first university to be built in the United States in 20 years from the ground up. A young, vibrant institution created for the modern era, CSUSM prides itself on its mission to serve the students of the region, particularly those most educationally at-risk, including veterans and military-affiliated students.

“Today we celebrate breaking ground on our tenth building in ten years. Over 40 percent of our graduating students for years have been first-generation college students and one in ten current Cal State San Marcos students is a veteran, active-duty or dependent,” said Haynes.

The University's veteran-friendly approach to higher education—supported by such initiatives as the War at Home and Abroad digital history archive project, the Veterans Student Support Fund, and veteran specific scholarships—has consistently ranked the campus in the top 15 percent nationally for veterans education by Military Times Edge since 2010.

“And we are not done,” emphasized Haynes. “We will continue to create new programs. We are now going to hire our first-ever Veterans Center director and we just completed our Veterans and Active Duty Strategic Plan."

An Eco-Friendly Center, a Bi-Coastal Partnership

The new CSUSM Veterans Center will be built on campus across from Markstein Hall, replacing a smaller facility which opened in Craven Hall in 2008. Expected to be in use by fall 2014, the 1,000-square-foot facility will retain much of Ecohabit’s emerging green technologies and design innovations. 

“The opportunity to turn Ecohabit into a functioning facility for returning veterans made the Solar Decathlon competition a truly meaningful experience for our students,” said Dr. Michael Bruno, dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science at Stevens.

Featuring an office, conference room, kitchen, lounge and event space, the Center will be a place where military-affiliated students can receive support in achieving their academic and career goals with services tailored to their unique needs. Staff will assist students to navigate the admissions process, access their GI benefits, register for courses, access campus resources and get involved in leadership and social activities.

“The Veterans Center will also provide a bridge to help civilian students learn more about vets, dispel misconceptions and raise awareness of the advantages that student veterans bring to our community,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Lorena Meza.

In addition, the Veterans Center will advance knowledge of energy efficient design, directly supporting CSUSM’s commitment to sustainability and green building. CSUSM students will collaborate with Stevens students to monitor and analyze data on energy use, weather and temperature and the effect they have on energy efficiency.

“There is a hope and a promise here,” said Bruno. “We hope this is the first step in a long-term collaboration between our two campuses, driven by our students: the users of the facility and the students back at Stevens in Hoboken, N.J. Our hope is to exchange data and improve on the system as we go forward so that it is a living laboratory. Our promise is that we will be strong partners and will provide guidance, input and share the learning as we move forward.”

Investing in Veterans

Although Ecohabit was donated by SIT, Cal State San Marcos must raise funds to support the costs of moving the building to campus and installing it on-site, repurposing the interior spaces and furnishing the Center to best support the CSUSM community.

To that end, The Patriots Initiative of the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation has already provided a $10,000 donation this summer.  

At the groundbreaking ceremony, President Haynes announced that Joshua Pack, managing director of Fortress Investment Group and member of the CSUSM Foundation Board, has generously donated $55,000 to support both the Veterans Center and the Lt. Col. AJ Pack Veterans Scholarship, which Pack created in honor of his father to support veteran students at Cal State San Marcos.

“We thank Joshua Pack and The Patriots Initiative of the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation for your service, leadership and generosity in supporting Veteran students at Cal State San Marcos,” said Haynes. “I invite others to follow their lead. Help us make this Center not only a reality but robust with services and support for our students.”

For more information on how you can support veteran students and the Veterans Center at CSUSM, contact University Advancement at 760-750-4400.