By JB Clark
University of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi continues to climb the Military Times’s Best for Vets ranking, moving up to No. 21 this year among public institutions and making it the second-ranked SEC school for veterans and military-connected students.
Improving the campus support for student veterans has been the top priority for Andrew Newby, assistant director of veteran and military services, since he came to Ole Miss in 2017. The university didn’t make the ranking of 130 schools that year.
In the years since, the Veterans Resource Center was established in the Yerby Conference Center and then moved to the renovated George Street House, which is also home to the Office of Veteran and Military Services.
The office also has implemented the Veteran Treatment Teams program, which pinpoints campus professionals who can work with the Veterans Administration to coordinate care and assess the health needs of student veterans.
“While we have come a long way, there is so much still to be done for our student veterans,” Newby said. “Veterans serve in ways that leave lifelong impacts on our campus, country and world, but that service often leaves a lifelong impact on their health.
“It’s our job to work with the VA, the university and other veteran advocacy program to ensure our student veterans have access to all the benefits they’re entitled to while pursuing a first-class education.”
Caring for student veterans falls directly within the university’s mission statement, which commits to transforming the lives and communities of students, said Natasha Jeter, assistant vice chancellor for wellness and student success.
“There should be no veteran in need of food, housing, clothing, employment or education,” Jeter said. “We have academic resources and housing resources and food resources.
“We are a campus where a veteran can get any number of degrees in any number of fields, and we strive to make the process seamless while providing support throughout the process. That, to me, is our responsibility.”
Part of the work the Office of Veteran and Military Services has done to make those resources available in one place is to give VA representatives working space in the George Street House.
But caring for veterans is more than just a moral imperative for Jeter. The diverse perspectives and varied experiences of student veterans are a benefit to students and faculty members who share classrooms and research spaces with them.
“This also means a tremendous growth opportunity for the University of Mississippi,” Jeter said. “People like nice things, and by continuing to improve the facilities, benefits and resources we provide veterans, we will see an influx of veteran and military-connected students coming to our university.”