Increasing from five to 300 members in 2013 alone, the MTSU student organization known as BRAVO has experienced tremendous growth.
The progression was acknowledged recently when the Student Veterans of America national organization selected BRAVO — Blue Raider American Veteran Organization — as Chapter of the Month for March.
Student Veterans of America, or SVA, a coalition of student veterans groups on more than 950 college campuses worldwide, announced the honor March 7.
“I was actually very pleased to learn the news,” said Malcolm Stallard, an MTSU sophomore and BRAVO’s president, who said events for nearly 1,000 MTSU student veterans and their dependents has helped stimulate growth and awareness across campus and helped lead to the SVA recognition.
Student organization adviser Pat Richey, an assistant professor in speech and theatre, said he was “shocked” when he heard the news about the chapter award.
“I didn’t know we were in the running,” Richey said. “It kind of popped on us — a last-minute notice. I was really surprised we got it. I knew we were active in the SVA, but I didn’t know we were active enough to be recognized.”
Stallard said he and E.J. Hirsch, BRAVO’s vice president, attended a national SVA conference held at Google headquarters in New York City in October. Stallard said they learned “they very much were appreciated by SVA for being a light shining to other chapters.”
“We’re now building relationships on campus with the veterans’ population,” Stallard said. “We’re seeing resources and collaborations increase. Veterans are starting to trust the school more. Organizations on campus want to help us. And veterans helping veterans is helping with our retention.”
Stallard said BRAVO’s membership began to explode last fall because of football tailgating activities, table displays, a T-shirt promotion, Veterans Job Fair and a 5K/10K run.
“We had activities for them to do and it brought in more veterans,” Stallard said.
Richey said an initiative for the tutoring of veterans improved their academic success at MTSU.
“One example of MTSU’s strong support to veterans was campaigning by (MTSU Veterans Committee members) Derek Frisby, Hilary Stallings, Tony Johnston, Jimmie Cain and past BRAVO members for priority registration for veterans in Tennessee,” he said. Frisby serves as committee chair.
BRAVO, as one aspect of the veteran-friendly community at MTSU, continues to advocate for veteran needs on campus and in Tennessee, Richey added.
Richey said BRAVO member Sean Martin, a junior sociology major, played a role when the Tennessee Veteran Education Task Force met Feb. 21 at MTSU. Martin is the only student representative from across the state and only MTSU representative on the 10-member task force.
Upcoming BRAVO-related events include:
- Adopt A Hero Dinner, which will start at 6 p.m. Friday, April 11, at Oaklands Historic House Museum, 900 N. Maney Ave.;
- VetSuccess on Campus Veterans and Family Benefits Expo, which will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 24, in both the Campus Recreation Center and Student Union. For more information, contact Heather Conrad at 615-898-2974 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; and
- Poker Run and Block Party, featuring 300 bikers, which will start at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 26, at Bumpus Harley Davidson of Murfreesboro, 2250 Northwest Broad St.
To learn more about BRAVO events including the Adopt A Hero Dinner and Poker Run, email Stallard at email@example.com or call 615-971-3187.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)