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11/11/2013 - Jackson, Miss.

Transitioning from a military environment, where “chain of command” is a daily consideration to a university environment, where “shared governance” is highly valued, can be difficult for a student as they navigate the way from mission-oriented tasks to credit-bearing courses.

Mississippi Public Universities understand the special skills and attributes veteran students bring to the classroom and university and work hard to provide the services, staff, facilities and organizations these students need to be as successful in college as they were in the armed forces.

Serving in any branch of the United States military affords members the opportunity to avail themselves of educational benefits, but completing all the necessary paperwork can be a daunting task. Universities provide assistance in various offices across the campuses. Jackson State University has a Veterans Support Team consisting of representatives from various departments who have contact with veterans and military students. They assist with issues such as financial services, deferred payments, special housing accommodations, military credit analysis, and counseling and disability services. There is a designated point of contact in each department to assist veterans.

Delta State University and Mississippi Valley State University take a similar approach, designating staff members in various departments to assist veterans. At the University of Southern Mississippi, faculty members are engaged in mentoring and advising student veterans.

The University of Mississippi recently began a new initiative to educate faculty about veteran-specific issues and how they differ from those experienced by other incoming freshmen. Faculty members in some departments have been designated as contacts for veteran student concerns. Workshops focused on veteran transition issues are offered to students and include topics such as academic advising, counseling services, student disability issues, university policies and the university “chain of command.”

At Mississippi State University, faculty members are engaged in assisting veterans through the “Green Zone” program, which is designed to increase retention of student veterans, service members and dependents through interaction with faculty and staff. The Green Zone mentors complete a workshop on military culture, active listening, issues that veterans and their families face in and out of the classroom, services available to assist with solving problems and federal programs to assist veterans. Individual and group counseling is also available to veterans on the MSU campus.

At Alcorn State University, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Mississippi University for Women, student veterans have access the health, counseling and mentoring services available for all students. All UMMC students are assigned a faculty mentor to assist them throughout their time there.

Some universities have a designated area to serve veterans and provide them with a space to gather with one another to establish a peer network on campus. The G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans on the campus of Mississippi State University provides support services to veterans, military and dependents and includes administrative offices, a computer lab and a day room for students to study and interact. Housing in a residence hall adjacent to the Center is also available.

The University of Mississippi has a unit in the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience that serves as focal point location for veteran assistance. The University of Southern Mississippi has a lounge space dedicated to veteran students.

Jackson State University’s Veterans Center provides services such as recruitment, military to civilian transition assistance, orientation, career and counseling services, Veterans’ work-study, benefits processing, assistance with admissions and leadership development.

Student organizations on campus also provide a way for students to network and support each other. JSU, MSU, UM and USM have chapters of the Student Veterans Association. DSU offers a Veterans Club support group to help veteran students engage in campus and university life. UMMC has established a Student Interest Group for Veterans.

Leading these efforts are the dedicated staff members on each campus. Jackson State has a full-time coordinator for veteran support services, along with the Veterans Support Team. They also have faculty members that serve as “Veteran Pals,” who collaborate with the Veterans Center and their respective academic units to enhance students support. Faculty members who are veterans also serve as secondary advisors to some members of the veteran student population.

Ole Miss has a full-time Coordinator of Veteran and Military Services, who works with designated staff to assist veterans, military and their dependents in departments across campus. The Coordinator serves as the main point of contact and helps students resolve issues in collaboration with other departments. The University of Mississippi Medical Center has a part-time coordinator of veterans support services and designated staff in departments to assist veterans.

The University of Southern Mississippi has a Special Assistant to the President for Military and Veterans Student Affairs who works to secure additional federal and private dollars to support veterans and their dependent family members pursuing a Southern Miss degrees, serves as a Southern Miss liaison to Camp Shelby and Keesler Air Force Base; and takes a lead role in the development of a veterans student service center on the Hattiesburg campus. USM also has a full-time coordinator of veterans benefits and other staff members who are also devoted to administering VA benefits.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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