Mississippi State earns gold distinction as 2018 Military Friendly School

Mississippi State University has earned the 2018 Military Friendly Schools Gold Medal, a reflection of MSU’s commitment to America’s armed services veterans and their dependents. (Photo by Russ Houston)

Contact: Checky Herrington

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Just a few weeks after being rated a top-50 university for veterans, Mississippi State has earned the 2018 Military Friendly Schools Gold Medal for its veteran-oriented campus culture. 

Presented annually by Victory Media, the prestigious distinction showcases some of the most powerful and effective veteran-centered programs at more than 800 post-secondary schools that were designated as Military Friendly Schools. Criteria for inclusion is based on commitment, effort and success in creating sustainable and meaningful benefits for military service members, veterans and their family members.

“Being recognized as a welcoming place for veterans is one of our proudest achievements,” said MSU President Mark Keenum. “Appreciation for military service is part of our core makeup, and we are pushing ahead with even more innovative programs that help our student-veterans achieve their education and career goals.”

MSU has long been recognized as one of the nation’s most veteran-friendly universities, with the G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans serving as the campus hub for veteran-related activities. The center in Nusz Hall is a one-stop shop for processing educational benefits for service members and their dependents as well as a place where veterans can socialize and build supportive relationships.

“We recognize that many of our student veterans are dealing with unique challenges,” said Brian Locke, interim director of MSU’s Center for America’s Veterans. “They are older than traditional students and are working part-time jobs and raising families. Our goal is to make their transition to campus life as stress-free and productive as possible.”

Air Force veteran Sarah DeLeon, 26, is one of many students whose transition to Mississippi State was facilitated by the center. During her first year at MSU, DeLeon was deployed overseas and unable to attend student orientation or meet with her adviser. The F-16 avionics technician from Defiance, Ohio, said she was in “panic mode” when the Student Veterans Association reached out to help.

“The association did absolutely everything that needed to be done for me,” said DeLeon, who’s majoring in aerospace engineering while remaining active in the Ohio Air National Guard. “I was already stressed from my daily duties, so getting assistance with enrollment was a huge weight off my shoulders. Mississippi State has been more than amazing at accommodating my needs.”

Now, DeLeon serves on the board of the Student Veterans Association, which holds regular meetings for student-veterans and sponsors community activities and fundraisers to help local veterans’ organizations, such as Disabled American Veterans and Purple Heart Homes.

“Being in the military has always felt like having a close-knit family,” DeLeon said. “The SVA brings that comforting atmosphere right on campus to all veterans and their dependents.”

Navy veteran Michael Pawluk, 34, also received assistance from the Student Veterans Association when he enrolled in graduate school at Mississippi State to study cyber operations.

“The SVA accepted me with open arms, offering me a place to bond with other service members and develop new friendships,” said Pawluk, a native of New York City. “They also made the application process quick and straightforward and provided assistance when I had questions.”

DeLeon and Pawluk are among approximately 650 veterans and service members attending MSU, a population that increases to more than 2,600 when including dependents.

In addition to multi-year rankings by Military Times and Military Friendly Schools, Mississippi State was designated a “Purple Heart University” in 2015 by the Military Order of the Purple Heart for outstanding service to military veterans, service members, dependents and survivors.

To review all results of the Military Friendly Schools 2018 rankings, visit www.militaryfriendly.com.

For more on MSU’s services available to veterans, visit www.veterans.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.

Monday, December 4, 2017 - 4:46 pm