Student Veterans of America recognizes USC and USC SVA Chapter for dedication to the veteran community
The University of South Carolina Department of Veterans and Military Affairs and USC Student Veterans Association attended the 15th annual Student Veterans of America National Conference in Orlando this past week. There they received national recognition for their dedication to the veteran community. The university received the 2023 William Pearson Tolley Champion for Veterans in Higher Education award and the USC Student Veterans Association was named the 2022 Chapter of the Year.
Student Veterans of America (SVA) is a network of more than 1,500 campus chapters, providing programs and resources to empower student veterans to achieve their highest potential. The core functions of the SVA are centered around programs, advocacy, and research. The organization works with lawmakers to advocate for policy reform pertaining to student veterans, most noticeably in the improvements to the GI Bill®.
The William Pearson Tolley Champion for Veterans in Higher Education Award recognizes individuals, organizations or institutions who have a commitment to supporting and enhancing educational opportunities for student veterans on their campuses. Jared Evans, executive director of the USC Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, accepted the award on behalf of the university. The award was first presented in 2016 and past recipients include Syracuse, Colorado State, and Fayetteville State universities.
“It’s an absolute honor for USC to be recognized as the 2023 William Pearson Tolley Champion for Veterans in Higher Education award winner. Student Veterans of America has a longstanding reputation and history of advocating for student veterans’ academic and professional success,” says Evans. “This recognition is the culmination of an intentional effort and dedication from leadership, students, and alumni, to leave the university better than they found it for the military-affiliated students who will come behind them. While we’re humbled to receive this prestigious award, in many ways, we believe we’re just getting started.”
The award was presented to USC to recognize the institution’s continued efforts of supporting the greater military-affiliated population on campus and dedication to veteran inclusion.
In 2021, the Veterans and Military Center of Excellence opened in the Byrnes Building, providing the military-affiliated population with a centralized “home away from home” on campus, complete with conference rooms, study rooms, lounge, canteen, and closet of professional attire available. The mission of the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs at the university aims to support the military-affiliated population from enrollment through graduation to their next career. Through partnerships with employers, the department can provide student veterans opportunities to engage with organizations with robust military-ready hiring initiatives as well as prepare them for the workforce.
The university’s Student Veterans Association was awarded the 2022 Student Veterans of America Chapter of the Year, recognizing their efforts in creating a campus community for student veterans and providing the support and resources their classmates need to succeed. Finalists for this year’s honor also included Bowling Green State University, Fordham University, Texas A&M, and Southern California.
“Our selection is definitely an honor, compared to other schools and knowing what other SVA chapters have been doing across the country for veterans,” says Allexis Smith, USC SVA chapter president on winning Chapter of the Year. “There has been a standard set; we must surpass what we have already done. Before we only touched the surface. After speaking to other SVA chapters there is much more to learn so we can grow as a chapter.”
The USC SVA chapter functions with the highest integrity and principles, showing an open door to anyone who needs or wants to be a part. Though small, the chapter made a deep and lasting impact on the lives of its members, providing a space for them to relax with peers that have shared experiences, providing a group where students can find camaraderie, and providing opportunities to experience campus life with other veterans. This outlet allows them to celebrate not only their veteran experience but also their other identities.
“We are excited about further enhancing our commitment to Serving Those Who Serve,” says Evans.