Columbus State University Focuses on Support for Military-Affiliated Students

Columbus State University recently launched its first ever Green Zone initiative to provide extra support for military-affiliated students – a group that makes up about 15% of CSU’s student body. With a $2,500 grant from the Aurora Foundation, CSU’s Military Enrollment department trained 14 faculty and staff on the unique issues and concerns faced by military-affiliated students.

“The Green Zone is all about building a community of advocates for students who are veterans, active duty, or military dependents,” said Susan Lovell, director of military enrollment. “This special group of students faces many unique challenges from obtaining VA education benefits to anticipating a possible deployment in the middle of a semester to simply adjusting to civilian life as a student. We want faculty and staff to be aware of these challenges, so they can help students overcome barriers to obtain academic and career success.”

CSU employees who underwent the Green Zone training were provided with a Green Zone sticker to hang on their door, so that military-affiliated students will recognize the person as an ally who is specially trained to support their needs. Additional trainings will be conducted in July and October to expand the network of Green Zone trained faculty and staff.

Nationwide, student veterans drop out of college at a rate of 88 percent. CSU’s military enrollment seeks to reduce that rate by providing a variety of services for military-affiliated students. Created in 2014, the department offers job opportunities, assistance with VA educational benefits, support for an active student veterans association, and a private military-affiliated student center complete with computers, printers, a small library and a lounge.

“The student center gives them their own space to connect with one another,” said Lovell. “We have students who can’t drive, so they will leave their lunch in our lounge refrigerator and use the computers to study in between classes. We have students who bring in used books to stock the mini-library, so their peers might not have to buy a book. It is a supportive community.”

Lovell continues to look for ways to meet the needs of CSU’s military-affiliated students. Recently she learned that some did not have suits for graduation or job interviews, so the department reached out to clothing businesses in the community for donations to create a “Suits for Vets” program.  Other initiatives include a special military orientation for new students in July, eight-week course offerings at Fort Benning, and a military-affiliated student advisory committee aimed at finding scholarship opportunities.

“They may not always admit they need help,” said Ray Watson, president of the CSU Student Veterans Association. “But any assistance we can give to our veterans is greatly appreciated.”