The website Military Friendly ranks every college in America on how well they serve veteran and service member students. For the 2020-21 list, The University of Southern Mississippi made it into the top 10. The website assesses each school based on six criteria, and Southern Miss scored 100% on all of them. Military Times’ “Best for Vets: Colleges 2020” list also puts Southern Miss at No. 9.
A lot goes into making a Southern Miss the kind of school where veterans and service members feel welcome. Most of it comes down to human interaction and hard work.
Sean McCraw, a junior anthropology major, is a veteran student who goes through the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families to receive benefits from the G.I. Bill program.
“Who represents veterans is key. It’s the people you hire. Here, they work for me,” McCraw said.
McCraw said Southern Miss works for veteran students more than other colleges.
“At [the other college I attended,] I had to fill out forms for the G.I. Bill once a month, but at Southern, I’ve only had to meet with Michael McGee, the veteran outreach coordinator, twice in person,” McCraw said. “People here know how to do the job. The difference between here and other colleges is night and day.”
Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond is the director of the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families. He said the office staff is the reason for the center’s success.
“We work hard to find success. We eat, sleep and breathe that,” Hammond said. “We have a VA employee whose full-time job is to help veterans find jobs. Also, we have a program called Textbooks for Troops. At the end of the spring semester, you can donate your textbooks to the Center for Veterans.”
The Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families tries to take care of G.I. Bill paperwork and other things for veteran and military affiliated students, so that the students can focus on their busy schedule. Hammond said that No. 9 is great, but their goal is to get Southern Miss into the top five.
Capt. Allen Smith of the Air Force ROTC detachment 432 expanded on what makes Southern Miss so compatible with the military.
“Having a presence on campus [is important]. We have a bigger student body that is in uniform. Yesterday we were out in the field doing military crawls. The more you see that, the more it looks normal,” Smith said. “To be able to use the campus to teach our cadets, but also getting the awareness out on campus that you have a military presence here, it helps out a lot.”