Due to its close proximity to Fort Campbell, it comes as no surprise that Austin Peay has become host to a vast number of military-affiliated students. As the University steadily progressed through each semester, so did the need to establish a newly imagined resource center for those affiliated with the military community. With that vision and purpose in mind, Austin Peay proudly opened the doors to the William E. and Sadako S. Newton Military Family Resource Center.
This remarkable vision, that came to life, wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of Austin Peay Alumni, Wilma Newton (73’) who donated the funds needed to renovate the facility. To repay this generosity, the resource center was named after her late parents William E. & Sadako S. Newton. Located near the campus at 426 College St, the 5,200-square-foot Newton Military Family Resource Center has earned its title as the largest military center in Tennessee; widely outsizing the old Military Student Center that measured in at just 700-square-feet.
The number of military-affiliated students at Austin Peay has remained steady for the last five years. Around 25% of the total body population is affiliated; meaning anywhere from 2,400 to 2,700 students needed a newly imagined facility to be their home away from home.
“I became the head of the Military Student Center in November 2007, and immediately started working on a needs base assessment to help determine current student needs,” Jasmin Linares, Retired Army Veteran, Military Student Center Coordinator explained. “I started holding focus groups and asking students for their feedback on our services- specifically services provided to military-affiliated students on our campus. Most of the feedback I got was in regards to needing a bigger space. As a member of the APSU Military Education Task Force, I started sharing with them the feedback from the assessment and focus groups; which led to us forming a subcommittee that presented to former President, Dr. Alisa White, our top three ideas aimed to improve the service we provide to our military-affiliated students. One of the ideas was to get a bigger space, and about a year later we were so lucky to receive the generous donation from Ms. Wilma Newton; making our dream a reality.”
The resource center is home to many great resources that aim to address any unique challenges the military-affiliated population may face. One of the most popular programs being Text for Vets; which utilizes textbook donations to provide textbooks to students free of charge. However, the resources don’t end there. There are also mentoring and outreach programs available to students who may need additional assistance deciding which routes to travel in their future endeavors.
“The Newton Center has become a resource hub for our military-affiliated students, not only for university services but also for a number of community partners who provide services at the center or plan to provide services there in the near future (Veterans Upward Bound, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Montgomery County Veteran Services Organization, Stephen A. Cohen Military Family Clinic, etc.),” Retired Maj. Gen. Walt Lord, APSU Military Advisor in Residence explained.
The newly renovated center will continue on the tradition of supporting military-affiliated students during their academic careers while at Austin Peay. In addition to housing several University and military offices, the newly renovated building features a computer lab, a lounge area for watching television, eating, and unwinding, tables for studying, and a self-serve coffee and tea bar.
Although relocated, the center continues in its predecessor’s efforts to provide valuable resources for Austin Peay’s military student population. The Newton Family Resource Center will act as a “safe haven” for those looking for a welcoming, military-orientated environment.
“Military-affiliated students typically comprise a quarter of our entire student population, so from a practical perspective, it makes good sense to ensure that we’re taking good care of them,” Lord explained. “We also realize that Clarksville is a very military and Veteran friendly community and we see it as our duty to contribute to that environment. One of the most daunting challenges to many Veterans’ success is the feeling of separation they experience after leaving the military. We feel like we’ve lost the connection to our ‘tribe’ and all of the support that tribe provides. Whenever I meet a new Veteran student at the center, I tell them that their tribe might look a little different now, but that we’re still here for them and that they’ll find us- their supportive tribe at the Newton Center.”