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UMUC celebrated the grand opening of its Student Veterans Lounge at the Academic Center at Largo on January 20, expanding its commitment to the thousands of veterans attending the university.

The lounge, which offers computers and Internet service, is a gathering place for veteran students to relax and collaborate with each other. Here they can also tap into the UMUC Veterans Resource Center and the vast network of information and assistance UMUC makes available to veterans and separating servicemembers and their families. The goal is to help them navigate the post-military transition and gain insight and support for informed decision making.

UMUC President Javier Miyares said that veterans should take advantage of all the help UMUC can give them in transitioning to civilian life and getting the education they need to fulfill their ambitions.

"They deserve our dedicated support, our steadfast encouragement, our every effort to ensure that their path back to civilian life and their pursuit of the American dream are not marked by unnecessary obstacles. I believe that this Student Veterans Lounge will be a means to those ends—a place where veterans can find the resources, support, and camaraderie that will smooth their path forward," Miyares said.

The lounge further demonstrates UMUC's commitment to veterans that has already earned the university the 2015 Military Times "Best for Vets" ranking among American colleges and universities. UMUC has also been certified as a top college for servicemembers by the KMI Media Group, which serves the military and defense industry, and has been designated a Military Friendly School by veteran-owned Victory Media, Inc.

In 2014, some 4,000 veterans who live within 35 miles of the Largo Academic Center enrolled at UMUC—and 12,000 veterans globally took classes at UMUC. Tens of thousands more have furthered their education at UMUC since its founding in 1947 as an academic institution serving U.S. military personnel and veterans at home and overseas.

Retired Maj. Gen. Milo Miles, UMUC's new senior vice president for Military and Veterans Operations, invoked Abraham Lincoln's call to "to care for those who have borne the battle" to describe UMUC's steadfast and ongoing mission to meet the needs of its veteran students.

"No institution of higher learning does it better than UMUC," Miles said. "The Veterans Lounge is just one more tile in the mosaic of UMUC's service to veterans."

Air Force veteran Terry Bowie, vice president of the VeteransSuccess Club, notes why so many servicemembers—who have many options for pursuing their education—choose UMUC. "This school is very serious about the cause of educating veterans and career counseling and mentoring and transitional issues," Bowie said. "We know the people here take this job seriously."

Bowie, and Success Club President Lorne Whalen, presented a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Shonda McLaughlin, UMUC's Veterans Affairs representative, for her efforts to help these students transition to academic life.

Kelly Wilmeth, associate vice president for Stateside Military Support in UMUC's Department of Military Partnerships, unveiled the first UMUC Veterans Resource Center challenge coin to commemorate the opening. A challenge coin, she explained, is a small medallion issued to a military unit that bears the organization's emblem and is carried by its members to prove their membership and to enhance unit morale.

"With this coin, we challenge you to be bold and to stand for the noble ideals of this country and its finest traditions," she said. "To be bright and to make education a lifelong pursuit; to be of service when you can make a difference; to be engaged with UMUC's veterans' community, and to support this lounge, which will serve as a welcoming place for years to come."