Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013
Virginia Commonwealth University has ranked in the nation’s top 20 percent of military-friendly campuses among colleges, universities and trade schools.
Victory Media’s fifth annual Military Friendly Schools list recognizes schools that most embrace military-affiliated students. It also serves to educate service members on which campus best fits their needs.
“It’s one thing we are really proud of,” said Brooks Taylor, the public relations and marketing specialist for VCU’s Military Student Services. “We have recognized (veterans') needs and hope that we accommodate them as best as we can.”
Since the end of the Iraq War and the winding down of combat operations in Afghanistan, military veterans have become the fastest growing population in American colleges. According to Department of Veterans Affairs reports, nearly 1 million military members and their families have enrolled in college in the past four years.
This influx of veterans in the classrooms provides a demographic most traditional four-year institutions are not accustomed to serving. Compared to the typical 18- to 22-year-old student, many veterans tend to be older and more likely to be married with children. They also face the struggle of the transition from military to civilian life.
VCU has nearly 1,200 military-affiliated students and more than 270 faculty and staff members, many who have served overseas. Recognizing the need to assist student veterans, the university created the office of Military Student Services in 2009. Since its founding, Military Student Services has launched programs such as the Green Zone, which trains faculty and staff members to deal with issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder and military deployments.
Many of VCU's student veterans take advantage of benefits such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which helps pay for tuition and housing. However, many times the process of applying for benefits tends to be slow and difficult. Military Student Services helps current and potential students with the application process and any issues that arise between VCU and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Caroline Bucholz, a sophomore studying social work, received her benefits eligibility from her father, a former chief petty officer with the United States Navy. Prior to enrolling at VCU, she had just finished treatment for cancer.
“Going from all the turmoil like that to starting college and trying to get benefits, it’s really hard,” Bucholz said. “You are all over the place and you don’t know where to go.”
Military Student Services helped guide her through the process of getting her benefits and ensuring her success in college.
VCU also offers priority registration to students who currently serve or have previously served.
To date, VCU is the only college in Virginia to offer this benefit.
The Military Student Service office, in Harris Hall, houses a variety of amenities not only for the staff, but also for service-connected students. The office provides students with a place to study, a kitchenette and a place to lounge and socialize.
Chris Conrad, a post-baccalaureate in pre-heath, is a regular visitor to the Military Student Services office.
“This is a good place to study,” he said. “It provides a good place to meet other vets with similar experiences.”
While the Military Student Services staff is proud to receive recognition for their work, they are constantly learning and sharing new techniques and strategies with other colleges and universities in order to provide the best service for veterans everywhere.
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