University of South Carolina

Student veterans make presence known

By Craig Brandhorst, CRAIGB1@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-3681 

Veterans aren’t your ordinary college students.

Typically older than most of their classmates, they arrive on campus with a different set of life experiences — some positive, some negative, almost all of them meaningful. They’ve had basic training as well as specialized training, and have learned discipline, leadership and responsibility during their time in the service. They’ve also very often seen combat, and if they haven’t, they know someone who has.

It’s with this in mind that the University of South Carolina has ramped up its efforts to recognize student veterans for their service and to welcome them into the university community, provide them appropriate services, and educate faculty and staff about their student veterans’ often unique circumstances.

“We know that we have to support student veterans on one level, but we also know that we have to educate faculty and staff on another level,” says Paul Millard, coordinator of transfer and special student population services at USC’s Student Success Center.

Millard is helping spearhead the university’s new Green Zone training program for faculty, staff and students. Modeled on the Safe Zone program that offers educational workshops on LGBT issues, USC’s Green Zone workshops focus on the military experience and how that experience informs the student-veteran campus experience.

“The workshops are pretty in-depth,” says Millard. “We go over the deployment cycle— pre-deployment, deployment, sustainment, post-deployment and redeployment—and we talk about all of the various issues that a veteran will have gone through in each step of that cycle.”

Millard cites post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as one major issue that faculty and staff need to be aware of—and not just in terms of how it might affect a student veteran’s participation in the classroom.

“A veteran (suffering from PTSD) might sit in the back of the classroom or they might have excessive absences because they have to go to the Veteran’s Administration to receive treatment,” Millard says. “Or they might have a hard time adjusting in a classroom full of all 18-year-olds. So let’s talk about why.”

Faculty and staff who participate in a Green Zone workshop receive a postcard-sized sticker, which they are encouraged to place prominently in their offices or on their office doors as a way of letting student veterans know that that person can direct them to appropriate veteran resources both on and off-campus.

Of course, Millard is quick to point out that veterans also bring plenty to the table.

“We also talk about their strengths, because we want to make our veterans feel welcome and to incorporate them into our community,” says Millard. “They bring leadership, a great sense of motivation and pride, responsibility to the community. They are the most dedicated, most mature student population that I have ever worked with.”

Andrew Mohs is just one example of such a student. A sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, Mohs came to USC after 4 years as a mechanic in the United States Marine Corps and a tour as an armored vehicle driver in Afghanistan. He said he chose USC because of the quality of its mechanical engineering program and because the university’s participation in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program offset nearly all of the Minnesota-native's out-of-state tuition.

Mohs currently works as a case manager in USC’s Veterans Services office but is also president of USC’s Student Veterans Association, which was organized earlier this year as a way to give student veterans an opportunity to socialize with likeminded individuals of similar backgrounds.

“We deal with veterans all of the time (in the Veterans Services office), but we’re mostly just helping do their paperwork. It’s not really a way for veterans on campus to connect,” says Mohs. “So that was originally the thought, just to have a social organization where veterans can get together and meet other veterans.”

The Student Veterans Association meets approximately once a month to watch Carolina football games at a local restaurant and also organizes special activities such as a skydiving excursion later this month. In addition, the association will be handing out yellow ribbon pins and encouraging members of the USC family to sign a “remembrance wall” on Greene Street each day from Nov. 12-16, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

The launch of the 2-hour Green Zone training program will also coincide with Student Veterans Week (Nov. 12, 9-11:30 a.m.; Nov. 14, 2-4 p.m.; Nov. 15, 5-7:30 p.m.). To register for a workshop or for more information, interested faculty, staff and students should email Millard directly at millardp@mailbox.sc.edu.

On Monday, Nov. 12, all USC staff and faculty veterans are encouraged to attend a breakfast and brief ceremony in their honor.  All veterans are welcome at the event, which will run from 7:30-9 a.m. in the Hollings Library. President Harris Pastides is scheduled to speak about 8:15 a.m.

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Posted: 11/09/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 11/09/12 @ 4:31 PM | Permalink