An Educational Experience Second to None for VCU’s Vets

For 70 years, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 – known as the “GI Bill” – has provided our nation’s military with higher education opportunities. In an effort to give back to our veterans, the Obama administration signed an  Executive Order 13607, Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members that led to the creation of the 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success (8 Keys).

These are concrete steps institutions of higher education can take to assist veterans and service members on their campus in their transition to postsecondary education. Over 400 universities and colleges across the country have pledged themselves to these 8 Keys. On July 16, Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell and Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs Allison A. Hickey sent a joint letter to institutions of higher education encouraging them to affirm support for the 8 Keys.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) offers a view into what it looks like to support veterans through the 8 Keys.

“At Virginia Commonwealth University, we have taken significant steps to ensure that our more than 1,100 veteran, active duty, and military dependent students have an educational experience that is second to none in our nation,” VCU President Michael Rao said. “We are proud of our record in supporting these outstanding students, and we are committed to ensuring that they have every resource to succeed at VCU and beyond.”

From the creation of Military Student Services (MSS) to the Green Zone program, veteran students on campus have ample opportunity to connect with one another. MSS addresses the unique needs of military students during their time at the university. Undergraduate student Scott Seal said, “MSS guided me through every step of the transition process, from utilizing my GI benefits to registering for classes and helping me to navigate the college experience.” The Military Student Service Center (MSSC) works with a number of organizations to help improve the student veteran experience and offers a number of systems that provide students with financial, academic and career advice. MSSC is centrally located and provides military affiliated students with a place to relax, study and socialize with their peers.

Green Zone is an innovative program that trains university faculty and staff members on how to better support veteran students making the difficult transition from service member to student. “The training was immensely helpful and targeted a population of students all too often forgotten. I would recommend Green Zone training to any individual employed in a higher education setting who has contact with active or veteran military students,” said Amy Rostan, a VCU academic advisor. VCU’s efforts are not solely confined to their own campus but have reached other institutions. For example, Green Zone has been shared with approximately 20 other colleges and universities across America.

To join VCU and the hundreds of other schools committing to these principles, to learn more about them, and to electronically upload your institution’s affirmation letter, visit the 8 Keys registration website.

Sydney Mann is an intern for the Military Affairs Team at the U.S. Department of Education.