One side of Scott Oplinger”s office in the Veteran”s Center is marked by splashes of patriotism – a small American flag hung on the wall and a red, white and blue University of Idaho sticker at his desk.
On another wall hangs a plaque Oplinger recently won, the Outstanding Staff Award for secretarial or clerical work.
Oplinger has worked at UI for three and a half years, but said he has lived in Moscow for much longer. He moved to Idaho from Oregon in 1998, a few years after leaving his service in the army in 1992.
His two children both went to school in Moscow, and his son attended Gonzaga University while his daughter was a UI student.
“She was married in the Admin auditorium, because that was the only place that I liked,” Oplinger said.
He started working at the university just after the Veteran”s Center opened at UI.
He said the need for a space for veterans came about when a GI bill was passed that gave veterans more reason to pursue a higher education. He said his boss, Daniel Button, and former Dean of Students Bruce Pitman were instrumental in creating the space.
Much of Oplinger”s job involves working with veteran students. He said he helps advise the approximately 300 veterans enrolled at UI, and the customer service portion of his role is his favorite.
Oplinger said he remembers many of the students he”s worked with.
A meeting with the daughter of a veteran sticks with him years after the memory took place. He said as they discussed her future, the student asked if Oplinger wanted to see her tattoo.
“She turned around and pulled the hair off the back of her neck, and on the back of her neck is said “Made in USA,”” Oplinger said.
There are some stereotypes surrounding student veterans, Oplinger said, but UI actually sees a lot of diversity in the number of students who have also served. There are currently 80 females, 100 married students and 116 dependents.
He said there are also a number of graduate students, and the red, white and blue honor cords are the only kind of honor cords graduate students are allowed to wear during commencement.
Though Oplinger said UI employees are paid less than other higher education institutions, he enjoys his job. He said recognizing staff through their work and giving them awards like the one he won could to a lot to increase morale among staff at UI.
“It”s nice to be appreciated like this,” Oplinger said.