By Travis Gulbrandson
The University of South Dakota has been named a Top Military-Friendly University by Military Advanced Education for the third year in a row.
In terms of four-year schools, USD is ranked in the top 20 percent – 33rd in the nation – for being military-friendly in Military Advanced Education’s 2014 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities.
“We earned this ranking in part by having a staffed Student Veterans Resource Center (SVRC), and a good balance of academic support and extracurricular activities,” said program coordinator Justin Smith. “Supporting veterans is a big issue for getting a higher ranking, so having the center is really important.”
Over the past three years, the center has seen a 91 percent increase in visits by student veterans.
“In the last three months, we’ve gotten 333 visits and combined 350 hours of students benefitting from this space,” Smith said. “In December alone … we had 98 visits of an hour or more.”
Among the services offered to student veterans by the SVRC is readjustment counseling services, library support, a warrior and family transition course, free academic tutors and free printing.
The SVRC also is launching a new Web site and social media campaign to better inform student veterans of its existence, as well as a peer mentoring program, Smith said.
All of this is taken into account by Military Advanced Education.
Schools that want to be included in the national ranking fill out a survey and list the services they offer veterans.
“The sole purpose of it is for them to put schools on a chart that veterans can pretty much compare schools by,” said Veterans Coordinator Jason Dean. “The incentive for a school to fill out this survey is so they can get on the list, and are introduced to some of these veterans and active-duty populations that are seeing this survey and are trying to find a school to go to.”
In the Guide for 2014, Military Advanced Education cited USD for having the SVRC available on campus.
USD was also praised for generating events that annually promote military service and veterans within the community, including a Veterans Day Community Supper, the annual Military Appreciation Football Game, cords for graduating students and Veterans Week activities.
“We believe the Guide serves as an invaluable tool for both education services officers and transition officers when advising service members about their educational opportunities,” said Kelly Fodel, MAE editor, via a press release.
In addition to the SVRC, USD also takes part in veteran-related events, including an upcoming drop-in legal service for veterans, which will be held at the Sioux Falls VA from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on March 21.
Edward Hruska of the Veterans’ Legal Education Group said the event allows veterans and their family members to get help with various legal issues they may have, including those related to child support, family law, benefits and employment.
The event is staffed by licensed attorneys, law students and other staff, all of whom work pro bono.
Approximately 50-55 veterans attended the event last year, Hruska said.
“We’re hoping for better numbers this year, although 50 was pretty overwhelming,” he said. “We’re hoping for 75 to 100 this year.”
Military Advanced Education serves education services officers and transition officers at every U.S. military installation, along with the service members they counsel. Published 10 times yearly, MAE’s editorial coverage includes exclusive interviews with military executive leadership, educators, and members of Congress; best practices; career and transition spotlights, servicemember, school, and program profiles, and periodic special reports.
For online access to the 2014 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges and Universities, please visit www.mae-kmi.com or pick up a copy of the December 2013 issue of Military Advanced Education.
For more information about the SVRC, visit www.facebook.com/studentVRC.
For information on the USD Veterans Club, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.