The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Office of Student Affairs celebrated its military, veterans and their families with a new mural in the Milo Bail Student Center.
Inspired by the value of “building community,” the red, white and blue mural is composed of personal photos of current students, alumni and community members.
After requesting “meaningful photos” from January to February 2017, student affairs received hundreds of submissions, said Leah Meyer, the interim director of the office of military and veteran services.
The selected snapshots provide a different perspective that many students wouldn’t otherwise consider, including “service members with their families, marriage proposals, meeting elected officials, re-enlistment ceremonies, having fun with friends and colleagues and day-to-day duties,” Meyer said. These experiences were then included in the final design and perfected over the summer by the Student Affairs graphic team and University Communications.
“Our students have vibrant backgrounds and come to the university with a wealth of experience,” Meyer said. “We wanted to show that their experiences and backgrounds are a recognized and valued part of UNO.”
UNO student and Air Force veteran Shane Mitchell said he’s yet to have a poor experience on campus and always feels welcomed.
The mural offers a sense of unity amongst the UNO community, while also igniting a patriotic feel with the photos coming together to display the American flag. The statements below the mural remind observers that “service to others is at the core of everything we do” and expresses UNO’s pride in supporting our military, veterans and their families.
“The mural is a testament to both the active duty and veteran students,” Mitchell said. It lets him know that he’s “not just an after-thought” in the eyes of our community.
Since making its debut at the beginning of August, the mural has sparked “a lot of conversations” and an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. Meyer said students often stop to study the mural and point each other out.
Former Air Force pilot and UNO faculty member Lowell “Skip” Bailey said he believes the mural is “one more demonstration of how UNO supports the military.” As a veteran and an instructor to several military-affiliated students, Bailey feels UNO “truly understands how Omaha and the surrounding communities are integrated with the military.”
“It would be easy for UNO to look at military members as another source of money with the GI Bill,” Bailey said. “Instead, UNO embraces the unique needs of military members with their deployments and travel, and allows them more flexibility to schedule classes and make up missed assignments. I would recommend this university to any military member.”
The UNO community is extremely military friendly, said Bailey, and this new artwork further proves that point.
“I’m really happy for UNO to see the military-affiliated community in a way that most people don’t have the opportunity to [see], and I hope it breaks down assumptions people can have,” Meyer said. “We hear from some military-affiliated students that they can sometimes feel at distance from other students – I hope that these images show relatable experiences and demonstrate the strong community we have.”