For veterans who have been recently released from duty or who may have never previously had any post-secondary instruction, finding a college that’s military-friendly is often a priority.
For U.S. Army veteran Luke Foresman, it was paramount.
“I wanted to feel comfortable around other veterans,” the University of North Georgia student said, “and I knew here, I could be able to be myself. It was a big motivation.”
Foresman, who was a sergeant first class in military intelligence before being medically discharged, is one of a number of veterans attending UNG, which recently earned three designations for supporting veterans and military-bound students.
The school, which has five campuses across north Georgia, is ranked as a top college in the Military Times Best: Colleges 2018 rankings; a top school in the Military Advanced Education & Transition’s (MAE&T) 2018 Guide to Colleges and Universities rankings; and a gold-level award for being Military Friendly for 2018 by Victory Media.
In the Military Times Best, UNG was ranked 129 out of 218 schools, out of more than 600 schools that applied for the distinction.
“It’s a big honor,” said Christy Orr, assistant director of student life for the Veteran and Adult Learner Program (VALP) at UNG, adding that UNG has implemented a number of programs on the Dahlonega, Gainesville and Oconee campuses to accommodate students who are military veterans.
Each of the three campuses, she said, has an organization committed to providing a network of support to military veterans, their families and civilian supporters.
The organizations are intended to educate the university community about veterans’ experiences and work with the university administration to meet the needs of student veterans and prospective student veterans; cultivate veterans’ concerns through scheduled meetings, advocacy, social and recreational activities and foster a spirit of comradery among student veterans and promote an understanding of student veterans’ issues.
On the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses, student veterans have spaces specifically designated for them as well.
On the Dahlonega Campus, the Veterans Resource Center has a lounge space, computer stations, free printing, a private restroom, and a kitchenette with a microwave and coffee maker while also offering some study materials for examinations, office supplies and other school work.
On the Gainesville Campus, the Military Resource Center has a study space, computer stations, free printing and access to a kitchenette.
On all five campuses, UNG designates certain areas as “Green Zones,” where university officials are trained to help student veterans identify and connect with any resources they may need.
“If a veteran sees a sticker with Green Zone, then he or she knows it is a safe zone,” Orr said.
Foresman said the zones have helped in the classroom.
“A professor can make accommodations for a veteran who is going to sit in the back of the room to watch the class,” he said. “Or they can allow us to record a lecture. It’s a good university that allows you to develop at your own pace [and] with the smaller classes, you learn more and you can retain more.”