Amber Mathwig spent a decade in the U.S. Navy as a military police officer. When she left the military and went back to college for an undergraduate degree, she quickly found out how school life and military life differ.

“The military lifestyle is always flexible. You know, Semper Gumby,” she says. “My job changed daily. It was all decided the day prior … if I was lucky.”

College means hard deadlines and set schedules. “You’re used to a rigid behavioral background, but you’re not used to hardset rules about deadlines. ”

Mathwig, now a second-year student in the Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) master’s program at UNCG, is one of four student veterans who will staff the university’s new Veterans Resource Center (VRC). The center, which opens Nov. 12 in the Spring Garden Apartments, will serve as a central hub and gathering place for veterans on campus.

“It’s a quiet place to study or ask questions,” Mathwig says.

Immediate plans for the center include a Nov. 20 visit by a Disabled American Veterans officer, there to assist with disability claims, and drop-in office hours for veterans services professionals from UNCG and the greater community. Down the road, Mathwig wants to offer Green Zone training to help faculty and staff better understand veteran students, and to engage veterans in the Listening Project, which pairs them with civilians who hear their stories.

Mathwig, who hopes to work for the Department of Defense, says she chose UNCG for two primary reasons. One, WGS offered her a rare opportunity to earn a master’s degree with a focus on the military and gender issues. Two, UNCG participates in the Veterans Administration’s Yellow Ribbon program.

Yellow Ribbon covers expenses beyond G.I. Bill benefits, primarily filling in the gap between out-of-state and in-state tuition rates for veterans. For veterans like Mathwig that difference is crucial.

Yellow Ribbon schools set aside funds to cover extra expenses, and the VA matches those funds penny for penny, says Elizabeth Cranford, UNCG’s VA-certifying official. For the Fall 2014 semester, UNCG contributed $90,000 for 21 students.

“No one was turned away,” Cranford says. “All who applied were accepted.”

About 493 veterans, active military or military dependents are currently enrolled at UNCG, a population which has doubled Fall 2007. Victory Media has named the university to its Military Friendly Schools list for four straight years.

“Yes, North Carolina is a very veteran-centric state to begin with, but somehow UNCG is pulling in more of them,” Mathwig says. “I find the campus to be a very welcoming place. I walk around and I love the diversity here.”

Cranford tells the story of a veteran work-study student in her office and an incoming veteran who struck up a conversation. “They discovered they grew up about 10 miles apart, in a small town in Michigan, went into different branches of the military at about the same time, and both came to UNCG. That says a lot about UNCG.”

On Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, UNCG’s Student Veteran Association in collaboration with the Veteran Resource Center is sponsoring a Field of Honor Roll Call for the 6,836 lives lost during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The roll call starts at 6 a.m. on the Elliott University Center lawn and ends with a memorial ceremony at approximately 1:30 p.m. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the university’s new Veterans Resource Center begins at 4:30 p.m. in the VRC, located in the Spring Garden Apartments.

For help with VA benefits, contact Elizabeth Cranford at 336-334-5946 or For other inquires, contact the Veterans Resource Center (VRC).

The VRC opens Nov. 12, and will be open M-F from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call the VRC at 336-334-5632, or drop by in person at the Spring Garden Apartments, above the Spartan Trader.

Both the VRC and UNCG’s Student Veteran Association are on Facebook at UNCGVRC and UNCGSVA.

Story by Michelle Hines, University Relations