Consistently ranked as a top U.S. military-friendly university, Mississippi State continues its longstanding tradition of serving members of the armed forces by offering a new certificate program.
The university recently developed the Veterans' Certificate Program to train individuals to help former military service members successfully transition to civilian life. The program establishes an opportunity for professionals, graduates and undergraduates to improve their knowledge of veterans' benefits while honing their leadership skills.
A recent grant from the Walmart Foundation for $80,000 funded the new program, which is the only one of its kind in the nation. Courses to earn the Veterans' Certificate may be applied as a concentration for the Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies, or as electives in a graduate-level program, said Kenneth D. "Ken" McRae, director of MSU's Center for America's Veterans.
A slightly similar program is available at the State University of New York, but only is available to graduate students and doesn't include a management course, the retired Army colonel explained.
The five online MSU courses are designed to provide training necessary to engage and serve veterans, according to McRae and fellow program organizer Linda Cornelious, a professor in MSU's instructional systems and workforce development department.
She said the Center for America's Veterans, the instructional systems and workforce development department and other university units collaborated in developing the curriculum. Cornelious also credited McRae's leadership and persistence in landing the Walmart grant that made the new program possible.
One course already being offered as a prerequisite focuses on the necessary management skills "that will allow students to be effective communicators, leaders and administrators," Cornelious said.
"The other four courses deal directly with issues that impact veterans, the kind of experiences they will have as they transition back to civilian life and how they can succeed academically, socially and psychosocially," she said.
Since the Veterans' Certificate is supported by MSU's Center for Distance Education, all five courses may be completed anywhere in the world while participants continue working, McRae said.
"The way that the certificate program is structured online, it covers that gamut," he said. "It's for anyone at the university level or anyone at government agencies who already works with veterans. It's for corporate human resources departments and private practitioners that have veteran employees. It's also for those people who want to work directly with veterans."
With the skills developed through the certificate program, graduates should be able to advance in their respective careers, Cornelious and McRae agreed.
The certificate program has been in the works for almost a decade. MSU administrators generated an exploratory paper on developing veterans' assistance associate's, bachelor's or master's degree concentrations in 2007, but development was postponed because of funding concerns.
"This certificate will give the lay person a real understanding of the culture and of the issues veterans face with transitioning, as well as the benefits themselves," McRae said. "I'm proud of the university's support for our veteran community, which covers the veterans, service members and their dependents."
Persons interested in applying to the program should visit www.iswd.msstate.edu/veterans/index.html.