President Karen L. Gould and members of the college community gathered on Nov. 15 to mark the opening of a new and expanded Veterans Affairs and Counseling Center in James Hall. Located on the building’s main floor, the new space is roughly twice the size of the office’s previous space, located in the basement of the building since 1997.

President Gould and Claudette Guinn, Veterans Affairs and Counseling Center coordinator, cut the ceremonial ribbon to room 1407 as a crowd of invited guests looked on from the hallway.

Guinn said that President Gould had been a strong supporter of the center. “When she first came to visit us down in the basement two years ago,” Guinn said, “I knew right away that she saw we needed more space. She made all this possible.”

After the ribbon cutting, President Gould told guests that her father served in the Pacific during World War II. “The only way he could go to college was by way of the G.I. Bill,” she said.

Provost William Tramontano said that his father fought in many of the battles in the European theater of that war and also made use of the G.I. Bill to pay for his college education.

“Not being in the basement anymore certainly is a benefit for us,” said Robert Belgrod, a bachelor of fine arts major who served as an E-5 electronics technician in the Navy’s submarine service from 2001 until last year.

“Not very many students have the need to go downstairs to the basement in James Hall, so they don’t learn much about the center. Now, maybe, they’ll see more of us and say, ‘Hey, there are actual veterans going to college here.’”

Belgrod, a junior, is vice president of the Veteran Students’ Organization (VSO). Founded in 1974 by Vietnam War veterans enrolled at Brooklyn College, the organization provided academic and peer counseling, and implemented drug abuse prevention programs that were eventually used throughout the City University of New York. VSO’s annual activities include undergraduate and graduate orientations and campus beautification projects.

The center’s new location is divided into individual offices along with storage areas. “A veteran can now meet someone from the center’s staff and discuss private information without others listening in,” Belgrod said.

The Veterans Affairs and Counseling Center serves more than 200 veterans annually, including a growing number of women. Many of the students have served in active-duty combat zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Center staff members first walk prospective students through the college application process, and then assist them with the steps needed to receive their veteran benefits.

Once he has his BFA, Belgrod hopes to become a peer mentor to help his former service members. “I plan to use my fine arts education to help veterans who may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” he said.