USC named Military Friendly School

 Andrew Mohs and Sean O’Shea both joined the Marines after high school, were stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and served in the Middle East.

Now they are both full-time college students at the University of South Carolina, leading the Student Veterans Association as it works to help veterans adjust to life on campus. The organization started in 2012, and has about 200 members on the USC campus.

“The Student Veterans Association offers a chance to honor veterans and military members and lets them have a place to build camaraderie,” said Mohs, the association’s president.

There also is an education and a community service component, with the organization sponsoring seminars and workshops to help veterans, said O’Shea, the organization’s treasurer.

“We’re building our identity. The group links veterans through social activities, allowing them a chance to get together with people who have similar ideals, principles and common experiences,” he said.

Financial, academic and social support for members of the military and veterans helped earn USC a place on the 2014 Military Friendly Schools list. The award honors the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that excel in embracing military students and ensuring their success in the classroom and after graduation. The list, compiled by Victory Media Inc., serves as a primary resource for service members and military families seeking education and has played a significant role for the past five years showing the best practices in supporting military students on campuses across the country. The list will be highlighted in the annual “G.I. Jobs Guide to Military Friendly Schools,” this month.

USC Sumter, USC Aiken and USC Beaufort also are included on the list.

Scott Verzyl, USC’s associate vice president for enrollment management, said Carolina is proud and honored to be recognized as a military friendly school.

“The university is proud to serve our veterans on their way toward a college degree, and has a long history of support through programs as varied as ROTC, our Fort Jackson campus and our new Palmetto College online degree programs,” Verzyl said. “An important part of our mission is to educate all the citizens of the Palmetto State, many of whom have military ties and experience. This military friendly designation symbolizes our continuing commitment to bettering the lives of our veterans and a better South Carolina for all.”

Mohs and O’Shea both said they have found the campus community open to military members and veterans, with the numbers growing in recent years. 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.

“Veterans receive a warm and open reception from the staff and teachers. They are grateful to have veterans in their classrooms,” said Mohs, a native of Burnsville, Minn., who served in Afghanistan. At USC, he is majoring in mechanical engineering. “South Carolina’s students are definitely military friendly.”

O’Shea, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, who is majoring in accounting and finance, said the Student Veterans Organization is available to help military students form roots on campus.

“I left the service and had no connection, no family here. I was starting from scratch,” said O’Shea, the organization’s treasurer who did three tours overseas, including two in Iraq.

This year, the association is starting is a mentorship program that pairs experienced student veterans with new students. The mentors, matched by majors and background, are available to help guide new students around campus.

“We are a growing part of the student body,” O’Shea said.

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