Serving those who served our country
By Megan Sexton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-1421
Paul Millard knows what military veterans can bring to the University of South Carolina’s campus – he sees it every day.
As the coordinator of transfer and special student populations in USC’s Student Success Center, Millard helps veterans navigate life as college students, working to understand their issues and ease their concerns. He also works to help faculty and staff around campus recognize veterans’ needs and attributes.
“Working with veterans is a delight,” says Millard, who is not a veteran but has family members who served in the military. “Student veterans are motivated and academically inclined. They bring a wealth of knowledge, maturity, leadership and other positive attributes to our campus.”
Millard said he receives frequent requests from faculty and staff around campus, looking to advertise research opportunities to student veterans in departments from engineering to social work. “They know veterans have the dedication and the attention to detail they are looking for,” Millard said.
The post-9/11 GI bill has made veterans’ education benefits easier to access, allowing spouses and dependents of veterans to participate. Plus, a surge of veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have headed to college campuses all over the United States. In 2009, about 400 veterans were using veterans’ benefits at USC. There are now about 1,000 veterans on campus, along with a few hundred using dependents’ benefits, Millard says. While about 200 to 300 veterans graduated from Carolina this year, another 200 to 300 are expected to enroll this fall.
The university is stepping up to serve those who served the country. Carolina has started a veterans’ student services advisory committee, created a student veteran organization that is part of a national chapter, developed a Campus Resource Guide designed to introduce new student veterans to the veteran specific resources available to them at Carolina, and started the Green Zone training program for faculty and staff.
The Green Zone Ally program helps USC’s faculty and staff learn about the potential issues veterans could face and ways to recognize when a veteran needs assistance. The two-hour training started this past fall and is offered throughout the year both online and in person.
“Due to the nature of combat, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide and traumatic brain injuries of returning student veterans are a serious concern for our veteran community. For that reason it’s important to train community members on the resources available to the student veterans who suffer from these issues. The training is a great avenue to do that, but the training is also helpful in that at the same time many veterans who suffer from PTSD are full functioning. In our training we take time to discuss that some of these issues exist on a continuum and that many -- if not most -- of our student veterans are engaged in our community, go to class regularly, graduate with honors, go to law school and medical school and don’t suffer from depression and PTSD,” Millard says.
“We don’t train people to be experts,” he says. “We inform them and show them how to recognize or make a referral if a veteran is having trouble navigating campus.”
Millard also says student veterans are leaving a highly structured environment and are entering a loosely structured one, so they might need directions on how to register or where to go for help.
To help student veterans navigate the campus environment, starting in the fall, veterans will be eligible to apply for a Veteran Sponsor – someone on campus who will help guide them through this sometimes difficult and challenging transition. The deadline for new student veterans to apply for a sponsor is Aug. 9