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Southern Miss Center for Veterans Earns Prestigious Designations

Thu, 12/17/2015 - 08:42am | By: Van Arnold

Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond (U.S. Army, ret.) serves as the Director of the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families at The University of Southern Mississippi. (University Communications photo)

The continued hard work and progress exhibited by the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families at The University of Southern Mississippi has led to prestigious recognition for the University from two national military publications.

Military Advanced Education & Transition (MAE&T) has awarded Southern Miss the designation of a Top School in its 2016 Guide to Colleges & Universities, measuring best practices in military and veteran education. Additionally, Victory Media Inc., a veteran-owned ratings entity whose work includes identifying organizations, including schools, which engage in practices supportive of active duty military, veterans and their families, has designated Southern Miss a Military Friendly School.

This marks the second consecutive year that Southern Miss, which launched the center in October, 2014, has garnered these important designations.

“Both designations identify USM as a university that places great emphasis and care on meeting the educational needs of veterans, service members and their families,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond (U.S. Army, ret.), who has served as the center's director since its inception. “I consider this a significant achievement in that we as a ‘University Community' continue to demonstrate an increased emphasis in serving those who have voluntarily served this nation in defense of our freedoms and way of life.”

The MAE&T Guide presents results of a questionnaire of the military-supportive policies enacted at more than 600 institutions including private, public, for-profit, not-for-profit, four-year, and two-year colleges. From community colleges to state universities, online universities and nationally known centers of higher learning, the Guide arms students with information about institutions that go out of their way to give back to men and women in uniform.

“Our goal is to be a dynamic resource for active servicemembers and those who have moved from the military to their civilian careers, helping them find the school that best fits their plans for the future,” said Kelly Fodel, Military Advanced Education & Transition's editor. “We think this year's Guide is our most comprehensive to date, thanks to our newly established advisory board. The board evaluated the drafts of the questionnaire, made pages of notes and suggestions and helped to redefine questions for clarity. We thank them for their thoughtful edits and additions to our process.”

The criteria used by Victory Media for its Military Friendly School rating includes:

  • Military support on campus (non-financial)
  • Academic credibility
  • Percent of military students
  • Academic credit for military service
  • Flexibility for military students
  • Veteran graduation rates
  • Government approvals
  • Student tuition assistance
  • Student survey and employment (job placement) rates, and military spouse policies

Since the center opened, it has created 14 scholarships for veteran students has been successful in attracting more veterans and active-duty military students to Southern Miss. Hammond estimates that approximately 1,200 student veterans (and family members) have utilized the center. By his calculations, the center has seen an increase of 174 enrolled students this year.

The center's mission is to offer sustainable conditions for a “military-friendly” education support program that provides veterans, service members (active duty, Reserve Component and National Guard), dependents (family members) and survivors (VSDS) the opportunity to pursue a degree at Southern Miss. For more information about the center, call 601.264.4629 or visit: