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USM Receives Top-10 Ranking by Prestigious Military Publication

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 01:20pm | By: Van Arnold

Best for Vets: 2020 Military Times

Six years ago, University of Southern Mississippi (USM) President Rodney D. Bennett issued a challenge to create additional pathways to completion for military students, veterans and their dependent family members. 

Soon thereafter, USM established the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families, reaching out directly to those who have proudly served our nation. The University’s dedicated and caring efforts continue to pay off as evidenced by Military Times’ most recent ranking for 2020 that places USM at No. 9 nationwide in providing services to military students. 

Last year, Military Times ranked USM at No. 15 nationally. The continued development of supporting services has resulted in the University’s first Top-10 ranking, clearly distinguishing USM among the country’s elite military caring universities. Other Mississippi four-year public institutions that earned rankings by Military Times include Mississippi State University (No. 21) and the University of Mississippi (No. 63).      

“We are on the proverbial ‘Cloud 9’ and more than ever appreciate the great support from our University, the local community and so many others,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, (U.S. Army, Ret.), who serves as the center’s director. “Our faculty and staff have worked hard to develop healthy, connected and learning-focused students who will go out into the world after graduation and continue to make a difference.” 

David Magola, USM Senior VA Certification Specialist, points out that the years of hard work and dedication in developing the veterans center have led to enormous benefits for the University’s military students. 

“As our military student enrollment increases, so have our academic support services,” said Magola. “We have over 1,780 military students enrolled for the fall semester 2019, and at the close of the last spring semester, 919 military students achieved an overall GPA of 3.00 or better; 209 military students earned an overall GPA of 3.75 or better, and 101 military students scored a perfect 4.0 GPA. We are both proud and honored to serve these wonderful students.”

For 10 years, Military Times has conducted an extensive, editorially independent, objective study evaluating the many factors that help make colleges and universities a good fit for service members, military veterans and their families.  Broadly speaking, institutions were evaluated in five categories: university culture, student support, academic policies, academic outcomes/quality, and cost and financial aid. While the value of each section was comparable, university culture and student support carried the greatest weight in the evaluation, while academic outcomes/quality, and cost and financial aid carried the least weight.

The impressive ranking by Military Times comes on the heels of a recent announcement of a $2.4 million fundraising initiative led by the USM Foundation to build a new veterans center on the Hattiesburg campus.

The Quinlan-Hammond Hall of Honor’s tentative completion date is Fall of 2021, when it will house the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families allowing Southern Miss to holistically care for and meet the needs and interests of the military student community. The facility will be located at the corner of Thirty-Fifth Avenue and Pearl Street in Hattiesburg.

Currently housed in a 1,600 square-foot refurbished dwelling on the west side of the Hattiesburg campus, the center has quickly outgrown its current space. The Quinlan-Hammond Hall of Honor will be a 5,200 square-foot facility with a conference room, study space for small groups or individual work, a library with adjoining lounge and study, as well as other meeting areas and staff office space.

Hammond knows the best is yet to come for USM’s military students. “Construction of this new state-of-the-art veterans center on our campus will set conditions for us to compete among the top-five “Military Caring” 4-Year Institutions across our nation,” he said. “We are eager to break ground with this project and encourage people to consider supporting such a worthy effort.”

To support the new veterans center building initiative, visit To learn more about the USM Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families go online at or call 601-264-4620. Visitors are welcome to the center at 3503 Morningside Drive.