OLE MISS VETERAN & MILITARY SERVICES

Veteran & Military Services works to solve the complex issues surrounding military-connected students in higher education.

The University of Mississippi is one of America’s Top Military-Friendly Universities, is the number one school in Mississippi for veterans, is an Unlimited/Unlimited Yellow Ribbon School, and is a Purple Heart Campus. Veteran & Military Services (VMS) works to provide comprehensive resources to veterans, military, and dependents to aid in their overall success as Ole Miss students. As part of the Center for Student Success and First Year Experience, VMS assists students with certification requirements to receive VA Education Entitlements with the GI Bill®, as well as provide advice, guidance, advocacy, and outreach services for our military-connected student population. Veteran & Military Services works hard to take care of all members of this unique student population, and welcome them to the Ole Miss Family.

If you are a veteran, active duty, or are currently serving in a guard or reserve unit, providing your DD-214 or proof of current service will get you EARLY PRIORITY REGISTRATION, which allows you to get your classes before the general student body. This great addition to the benefits we provide for our military connected students allows us to continue serving those who’ve served, and we are honored to do it.

University of Mississippi employees shall comply with program integrity requirements issued by the Department of Defense, including but not limited to those contained in 34 CFR 668.71 – 668.75 & 668.14. Specifically, university employees shall comply with restrictions on fraudulent and aggressive recruitment of military students including, but not limited to, providing compensation to individuals for securing military enrollments or engaging in high-pressure recruitment tactics.

LATEST NEWS

PRESS RELEASE: The End of Watch

Ole Miss’s oldest student veteran dies at 77

July 11, 2019 BY ANNA GIBBS

James “Handsome Jim” Willis, the oldest student veteran at the University of Mississippi, passed away Tuesday at Baptist Hospital-North Mississippi following a brief illness.

Willis, 77, was a veteran of the United States Navy and a retired Teamster, who recently celebrated 29 years of sobriety, something he said was one of his proudest accomplishments. In 2018, he enrolled at the University to pursue his lifelong dream of earning a college degree. Having previously started his studies at Ramopo College in New Jersey, he was just 15 credit hours shy of a degree in social sciences. Willis first made headlines in a piece the EAGLE published on August 21, 2018 titled “Scooting to Success,” which told the story of how he got his famous scooter that helped him travel around campus in spite of his limited mobility.

Once Andrew Newby, Assistant Director for Veteran and Military Services, found out Willis enrolled at Ole Miss, Newby said he made it his mission to help Willis. Newby worked with local nonprofit Volunteers for Veterans to get the scooter for Willis. While Willis was the first 77-year-old student veteran Newby had worked with, and he said Willis was a “remarkable man” who fit right in with the Ole Miss Student Veteran family.

“Handsome Jim never met a stranger, and was always a friend to everyone he met,” Newby said. “He didn’t let his age or his disabilities get in his way, and he was a joy to be with. Lucky for Handsome Jim, ‘one never graduates from Ole Miss,’ and he will always be one of my fondest memories of this place. The University sends its sincerest regrets, but also remembers his smile, his lovable laugh and the way he made others feel.”

It was not uncommon to see Willis sitting in the Veterans Resource Center after class, eager to strike up a conversation with anyone who walked in. He was a great listener, Newby said, and paired that skill with a wicked sense of humor and storytelling ability.

While he was perhaps one of the most non-traditional of the non-traditional students at Ole Miss, Willis said he felt welcomed and right at home.

“The veterans are really good guys, and made me feel comfortable and are so excited that, at my age, I’m going back to school,” Willis said in 2018. “They said, ‘That’s fantastic. It’s a good thing for the younger guys to see.’”

Willis said he was looking forward to scooting across the stage as an 80-year-old graduate, and his efforts have not been wasted. According to Newby, Ramopo College has made arrangements to award Willis a posthumous degree in recognition of his hard work.

“I can’t say enough about how incredible he was. The fact that he came back to school to pursue his education, to live out his lifelong (love of) learning, goes to show just how much he was capable of doing,” Newby said. “I’m lucky to have known him, however briefly, and I’m certain his imprint will forever be on my life, my work and my views on education.”

PRESS RELEASE: Ole Miss Veteran Services Move to George Street House

Veteran & Military Services, Veterans Resource Center to move in together

May 27, 2019 BY ANNA GIBBS

The George Street House, in the heart of campus, will be the future home of Veteran & Military Services and the Veterans Resource Center

The Office of Veteran and Military Services and the Veterans Resource Center at Ole Miss will finally come together in a central location on campus this fall.

It’s something Andrew Newby, Assistant Director of Veteran and Military Services, said was a positive step in improving the lives of student veterans. The new VMS office and VRC location will be George Street House, formerly the home of the School of Applied Sciences. The VMS office is currently housed in the third floor of Martindale Hall, and the VRC is located in the basement of Yerby Hall.

The new location is one Newby described as “prime real estate,” saying he especially wanted to thank Dr. Brandi Hephner-Labanc and Leslie Banahan for their help in the process.

“It’s a central location on campus. It’s a sign of institutional commitment, which I’m really big about,” Newby said. “It was really championed by the leadership at the Student Affairs office.”

Moving to George Street House will solve one of the student veterans’ biggest problems: accessibility. Currently, the distance between the VMS office and the VRC is approximately 10 minutes for an able-bodied person, and much more for those with mobility issues. Another issue with the current VRC location, Newby said, was the lack of interior elevator access and bathrooms in the basement level of Yerby Hall.

Many student veterans – the majority of the 1,300-plus Ole Miss students receiving GI Bill benefits – were forced to choose between using the resources at the VRC and handling paperwork at the VMS office.

“I’ve said since the beginning that a one-stop location is the practice across the country, and that’s the model we should strive for,” Newby said. “With George Street House, there are no stairs walking in, with a bathroom on the first floor. My office is on the second floor, but there’s an elevator to get there. This is just a great step in the right direction for accessibility.”

Another benefit of George Street Hall is its proximity to academic buildings. In the near future, Newby said, the relocation will boost involvement in the student veteran organization on campus as well as allow them to bring in more resources for veterans in need. Ole Miss has already been recognized multiple times for being a top university for veterans, and the move to a central location will help cement that reputation, he said.

It will also serve as a launchpad for opportunity, for career growth and personal growth.

“Moving into this location is going to increase visibility. It’s going to make them feel like they matter, like they’re an important asset on campus,” Newby said. “Because they’re going to be coming in to a single location to get their benefits taken care of, there will obviously be more opportunities for student interaction.”

The move-out process is projected to begin in July, with a grand opening date set sometime in October.

PRESS RELEASE: Military Times: This school waives out-of-state tuition, GI Bill® or no GI Bill®

Military Times features story on Ole Miss, Veteran and Military Services

April 25, 2019, BY JOSHUA AXELROD

Out-of-state tuition rates? For qualifying vets, there’s no such thing at this school — regardless of whether they have GI Bill® benefits.

The University of Mississippi, known better to college sports fans as Ole Miss, encourages veterans to attend with its Military Non-Resident Tuition Scholarship, which pays for the extra tuition that out-of-state students automatically incur.

This scholarship is also available to the spouses and children of veterans if they meet certain requirements.

“It’s a big decision-maker for families when they’re deciding whether to go to Ole Miss or another school because a lot of schools don’t do this stuff,” said Andrew Newby, Ole Miss’ assistant director of veteran and military services at its Center for Student Success & First-Year Experience.

Federal law requires public universities nationwide, Ole Miss included, to waive out-of-state tuition for qualifying GI Bill® users and only charge them the in-state rate, which the Post-9/11 GI Bill® fully covers. But this only applies under certain circumstances — vets must be within three years of separation and meet other requirements. And when your GI Bill® benefits are done, so is that out-of-state tuition waiver.

But at the University of Mississippi, once veterans exhaust their Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits, they gain access to the non-resident scholarship to pay for the remainder of their out-of-state tuition costs. This covers the entire time they’re enrolled in any Ole Miss academic program. That can range from the start of their undergraduate careers to graduate degrees and even law school.

Veterans who begin their time at Ole Miss without education benefits are also immediately allowed to use the non-resident scholarship.

And you don’t even have to apply for it. Once Ole Miss receives a veteran’s DD-214 formproving he or she has separated from the military, the school assesses the veteran’s out-of-state status and applies the non-resident scholarship accordingly.

“The reason that it’s a big deal is that once you’ve exhausted your benefits and still find yourself in school, we’re going to cover your out-of-state costs anyway,” Newby said. “If you want an education from Ole Miss and you want an SEC college experience, we’re going to take care of you for as long as you’re in school.”

Spouses and children can also use this scholarship if their veteran family member has shared or transferred at least one day of specified types of VA benefits with them. These dependents get their own non-resident scholarships and can use them at the same time as their parent or siblings.

Newby said there are about 1,000 students at Ole Miss using some form of veterans’ benefits. He estimated that about 40 percent of those students came to Ole Miss from a different state and use the non-resident scholarship.

One such student is Winston Taylor, a 24-year-old junior from Prattville, Ala. The former Army cannon crewmember said the non-resident scholarship played a huge role in his decision to attend Ole Miss instead of the University of Alabama in his home state.

“When I found that out, it was great news,” he said. “That’s a huge financial difference.”

Taylor is currently thinking about going to law school. He called his time at Ole Miss a “great college experience” and said that the fact the non-resident scholarship is available to him as long as he continues school there is making it more likely he will stick around if he decides to pursue a law degree.

Navy veteran Lauren Graham, 27, is currently an Ole Miss junior. She is originally from Fischer, Texas, but the non-resident scholarship sold her on being a Rebel.

“It allowed me to be able to actually go here,” she said.

Graham is the vice president of Ole Miss’ Student Veterans Association. She also used to work in the school’s Veteran and Military Services office and saw firsthand the elation veterans feel when they realize that they no longer need to worry about paying that extra out-of-state tuition.

“When they find out they get it, you can see they’re so relieved and excited, because it takes this incredible burden off them,” she said.

Newby advised veterans seeking a higher education to not just look at universities or other kinds of schools in their home state, which would be “doing yourself a disservice by limiting your options,” he said.

He believes that Ole Miss’ non-resident scholarship unlocks a world of academic possibilities for veterans.

“Southern hospitality is a real thing, and we have that at the University of Mississippi,” he said.

PRESS RELEASE: Surprise Welcome Home for 5th Grade Student, Soldier Mom

Sergeant Anna Seale surprises daughter with special return from Kuwait

April 2, 2019, BY ANDREW NEWBY

Sergeant Anna Seale surprises her daughter at home plate. Image submitted by Eli Buguey.

Sergeant Anna Seale deployed to Kuwait in May 2018 with the Mississippi National Guard in support of the Global War on Terror. A Supply Sergeant with the 155 Armored Brigade Combat Team, she knew when she left she wanted to do something special for her daughter, Addison Moore.

SGT Seale contacted Addison’s teacher, University Athletics, and Veteran & Military Services to develop a plan to surprise Addison with a special homecoming celebration. After working through the logistics, Athletics and VMS developed the plan that would enable Addison to be selected as the Kid Coach for the 7th Annual Kid’s Day Game.

Athletics and VMS arranged for Addison to come to the ballpark with her class, and meet Baseball Head Coach Mike Bianco at home plate for an attempted Skype call from SGT Seale, live from Kuwait. Little did Addison know, SGT Seale was waiting in the visiting team’s dugout for the surprise of a lifetime.

After the Skype call dropped, Addison was told that we would attempt another call during the game because there were technical difficulties with the connection. That’s when SGT Seale entered the field to roaring applause for the reunion.

This special day was made possible because of the sacrifices SGT Seale makes on a daily basis by choosing to serve in the military, and the Ole Miss Family is forever grateful to her and her fellow service members for making the necessary sacrifices to ensure our freedoms are preserved.

You can watch the homecoming here.

PRESS RELEASE: ‘Upgrade Your Tailgate’ to Support Veterans

UM Veteran and Military Services selling military-themed license plates

March 28, 2019, BY JUSTIN WHITMORE

The UM Student Veterans Association is providing a chance for Mississippians to show their support for veterans attending Ole Miss by purchasing a car tag that features an American flag-themed Ole Miss logo. The specialty tags will be printed and distributed once at least 300 pre-sales are made. Submitted photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi‘s Office of Veteran and Military Services wants to let Mississippians spruce up their car tags in 2019, while also raising money to help military veteran students at Ole Miss.

“Upgrade your tailgate” is the rallying cry for a push to get Mississippi license plates produced featuring an Ole Miss logo with an American flag color scheme. Production can’t begin, however, without the commitment of supporters of the university and its military veteran students.

“I came up with the idea to develop a license plate as a way to provide the community with a tangible way to demonstrate their love of Ole Miss and their support for veterans in the community,” said Andrew Newby, assistant director of veteran and military services.

The Mississippi Legislature last April approved the design of a specialty license plate featuring the traditional Ole Miss logo with a red, white and blue color scheme – the same logo the football team features on its helmets for the annual military appreciation game. The tag also has the words “Welcome Home” across the bottom, in honor of the Ole Miss campaign to support student veterans of the same name.

Before the tags can be produced, Newby must collect 300 pre-sale commitments and send that money to the Department of Revenue.

“I really like the design,” said Winston Taylor, Student Veterans Association treasurer. “The flag-colored Ole Miss logo is popular. Many of my friends actually bought the stickers of the same logo.”

Newby thinks the new license plate will be a product many Mississippians will want on their vehicles, but the cause that will receive the money is the real selling point.

“By working to create new revenue streams that can directly benefit the student veterans, these tags will help connect our mission to create concrete funding sources,” Newby said. “There is a direct benefit for purchasing a ‘Welcome Home’ license plate, because people have the ability to show their love for Ole Miss while also making an immediate, positive impact in the lives of real veterans in our community.”

Plates are $51 and can be purchased online; supporters also can fill out an online form and mail the application and check to Ole Miss Student Veterans Association, 3rd Floor, Suite R, Martindale Student Services Center, P.O. Box 1848, University, MS 38677-1848. Or, supporters can visit the office of Veteran and Military Services to fill out an application in person and deliver cash or check.

Once 300 pre-sales are accounted for, Newby will send a check for the full amount to the Department of Revenue and the tags will be printed. The DOR will send the finished plates to the respective car tag offices and those who purchased can swap out their current tag for the “Welcome Home” tag. The owner’s registration transfers to the new plate, and they are able to renew when registration is due.

The Office of Veteran and Military Services will eventually receive $37 for every plate sold that will be transferred to the university’s Welcome Home Campaign. Once there, it will be used at the discretion of Veteran and Military Services to support military veteran students at Ole Miss.

“The Welcome Home campaign was created in an effort to bring in resources that directly contribute to the well-being of student veterans at Ole Miss,” Newby said. “This campaign works to provide meaningful support and resources for student veterans in the form of scholarships, grants and resources for the Veterans Resource Center.”

Newby already has pinpointed some areas in which the money will help students.

“There are significant needs that we intend to address with how the Veterans Resource Center is cared for, and the money we raise will go toward computers, printing services, textbooks, testing materials and other amenities our students need,” he said.

Taylor said he hopes the fundraiser will continue the upward momentum the SVA has created with facilities and services on campus.

“We have only recently acquired the Veteran’s Resource Center here on campus,” he said. “This is a massive improvement from before, where everything was managed out of a small office in Martindale. Simple things like printing and Scantrons, along with more in-depth benefits such as career assistance are all things that veterans need and utilize.

“The VRC is a space where these things can be facilitated, but there is still much room for improvement.”

As of the end of March, the office had hit 20 percent of its goal of 300 commitments. With help from the Ole Miss community, Newby hopes to have the required 300 commitments by summer.

“Everyone is encouraged to participate with our campaign,” he said.

The Rebels baseball team is showing its support with the “step up to the plate” campaign to help raise awareness of the project.

For more information about purchasing a “Welcome Home” license plate, email sva.olemiss@gmail.com.

PRESS RELEASE: New Mississippi License Plate Supports Ole Miss Vets

Welcome Home License Plate benefits military-connected students

HottyToddy.com, FEBRUARY 13, 2019, Contributed by JACK NEWSON

Ole Miss prides itself on being welcoming to veterans. Now, a new initiative on campus is designed to show how much the university values its vets.

Art contributed by Jacquelyn Lawton, Veteran & Military Services.

Andrew Newby, assistant director for veteran and military services, says there’s a good reason to go the extra mile for a student who has been in the armed forces.

“They stopped whatever it was they were doing to serve in the military, and now they come here and it’s our job to welcome them to the University of Mississippi,” Newby said.

People who share Newby’s views now have a new way to help.  The “Welcome Home” license plate initiative, passed in April of 2018, will raise $37 for every plate purchased. All of that money goes to support veterans at Ole Miss.

Eli Buguey is a veteran and a student at the university. He says it’s important for people to know that vets really do appreciate the support.

“It’s the little things like this plate that shows that the community, especially the Ole Miss and Oxford community and the community of Mississippi at large, are invested in veterans going back to school,” Buguey said.

If you are interested in buying a license plate, you can go to svatag.com and fill out the form on the website, or go to the military services office located on the third floor of Martindale on the Ole Miss camps to fill out an application.

PRESS RELEASE: Veterans Treatment Team Recognized as “Best Practice in Campus Strategies”

Association of Higher Education and Disability recognizes Ole Miss Veterans Treatment Team

AHEAD-VETERANS NEWSFEED, VOL 3, ISSUE 1, JANUARY 2019, Contributed by JAMES WEIER

The University of Mississippi has built a veteran treatment program, providing a national model for serving student veterans. The program uses a collaborative team approach to connect student veterans to campus resources, such as counseling, health services, or the array of support services offered such as academic support services. “The Veterans Treatment Team’s stated goal is to give ‘student veterans attending Ole Miss the ability to receive treatment at the university for anything they may need while in school.'” The Treatment Team directs students to campus resources for the care they need for the primary goal of academic issues.

Information about AHEAD and the Veterans Special Interest Group may be found at their website here.

PRESS RELEASE: Veterans Treatment Team Offers Comprehensive Services

Program provides national model for serving student veterans at other universities

JANUARY 18, 2019 BY JUSTIN WHITMORE

UM accounting major Lauren Graham walks her emotional support dog, Lilly, on campus. Graham is a military veteran who received help from the university’s Veterans Treatment Team to deal with anxiety and stress. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OXFORD, Miss. – Lauren Graham came to the University of Mississippi for a second chance after a tragic incident ended her blossoming career as a nuclear electrician’s mate for the United States Navy.

Graham was a few months away from completing training at the Navy’s Nuclear Power School when she was assaulted while out for a run. The attack landed her in the hospital, and medication provided to her during treatment ultimately disqualified her from serving in the Navy’s nuclear program.

“I decided to come back to school and start my life over,” said the junior accounting major from Fisher, Texas. “I came to Ole Miss because I fell in love with how wonderful the campus is.”

When she got to Ole Miss, anxiety from the traumatic event hindered her college experience. She rarely left her apartment and would not walk the campus after dark.

But help was on the way.

Graham would soon learn of the university’s Veterans Treatment Team, a program that would provide the support she needed to fight her anxiety and grow as a student.

Veterans Treatment Team

Andrew Newby made it a priority when he arrived at Ole Miss in August 2017 to provide a safety net to catch student veterans when any of the various issues that stem from a life of service begin to inhibit their education.

“They are parents, they are students, they are veterans,” said Newby, assistant director of the Office of Veteran and Military Services. “They have all these different identities they have to balance.

“But if you’re at Ole Miss, I want you to be a student. I want you to get a degree.”

The Veterans Treatment Team’s stated goal is to give “student veterans attending Ole Miss the ability to receive treatment at the university for anything they may need while in school.”

Newby’s idea was to use the resources already at the university and form a team that can collaborate and direct student veterans to the care they need that is already available on campus instead of having them drive hours away to a VA facility.

“We have physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and academic specialists that can help manage the different aspects of who a student veteran is,” he said.

It was through the Veterans Treatment Team that Graham was linked with Ann L. “Jeni” Bond, a family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with the university’s Student Health Services.

Bond began working with Graham on battling her anxiety.

“Being able to talk and have that support system really allowed me to own what happened to me instead of being ashamed of it,” Graham said.

UM junior Lauren Graham is vice president of the Student Veterans Association. When she enrolled at Ole Miss, anxiety from a previous traumatic event prevented her from immersing herself in the university experience. With help from the university’s Veterans Treatment Team, Graham feels comfortable on campus, has joined a sorority and is active in the SVA. Photos by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Bond also assisted Graham in acquiring Lilly, an emotional support dog. The black Labrador retriever, along with treatment she received, made all the difference in Graham’s experience as a student, she said.

“(The treatment) definitely helped me feel comfortable in class,” Graham said. “Last year, I never studied on campus and wouldn’t be on campus when the sun went down. Now, I feel comfortable being here.”

Graham is in a sorority and serves as vice president of the Student Veterans Association. She often walks Lilly on campus and having the dog makes her more comfortable.

“It’s really allowed me to go all in and actually try to be a part of the campus,” she said.

How the Treatment Team works

The process to create a comprehensive treatment team for student veterans began by pinpointing professionals on campus who could collaborate within the confines of HIPAA guidelines and work with student veterans to assess their health needs.

“We are looking at a holistic picture,” said Kate Forster, a case manager in the Office of Leadership and Advocacy and member of the Veterans Treatment Team. “We wanted to address everything from academic support, personal and social support, mental health, counseling and medical health care.

“We have so many great resources here, but if you don’t have a team that’s looking at the whole picture, it can feel very siloed.”

Forster said her role with the team is to identify the unique needs of the student veteran population, who generally are “nontraditional” students who may vary in age and life experiences. Many have family, financial and work responsibilities that traditional students may not face, she said.

“I think certainly there is a mental health aspect that is very unique to this population,” she said. “Mental health needs are common with college students in general, but the particular concerns that veterans may be facing in terms of trauma, PTSD, suicidality, depression and anxiety are well-known, and that’s something we have to pay attention to.”

Mental health issues often manifest themselves in physical ailments, Forster said, and that’s why the multidepartment collaboration of the Veterans Treatment Team is key.

The important thing is letting the military veterans know the service is available in a hassle-free environment, said Dr. Travis Yates, director of University Health Services. Yates said he sees student veterans for a variety of concerns, both physical and mental.

“Many of the veterans are pretty stoic people,” he said. “They don’t come in for little nickel-and-dime-type things. Some of the veterans don’t want to tell me they are depressed or anxious, but I try to break those barriers down.

“We can offer more prompt service than they can get at the VA, and I just want them to know there are no barriers to care here.”

On-campus health care providers also communicate with the VA to coordinate care for student veterans as allowed by HIPAA.

Newby has frequently identified student veterans in need of help and made referrals to the appropriate health care provider on campus. Emphasizing the availability of these services shows veterans they are valued on campus, he said.

“Ole Miss has been entrusted with this person, and we want to provide them the best access that we can,” Newby said. “We are telling all the veterans everywhere that if you come (to Ole Miss), you matter.”

Impact and the future

There are success stories like Graham’s across the Ole Miss campus, Forster said.

“There are definitely student veterans that I’ve worked with that I do think, without the resources of the university that the treatment team has provided, would have struggled,” she said. “Support from the counseling center, support from the Student Health Center and all those other pieces have been critical to allow students to be successful.”

Graham said her personal experience and her role as SVA vice president motivate her to make sure all student veterans are getting the help they need.

“It really gives you a support system you won’t find anywhere else,” Graham said. “I know how much it helped me and all I want to do now is help other people. If it can turn their lives around like it turned mine around, I think everybody should know about it.”

Newby sees the Veterans Treatment Team as a model for other universities across the nation, and he hopes to see it implemented for other student veterans.

“We hope to do this, not to put Ole Miss on the map, but to take care of the next ‘greatest generation’ of veterans across the country,” he said. “If something like this opens up for the rest of the country, it will improve the lives of veterans.”

Newby said the program is a “win-win,” in that it benefits the VA with cost savings and reduction of backlog and benefits veterans with access to convenient services.

Like with many other programs offered by Veteran and Military Services, Newby and others are focused on making sure each veteran on campus knows they have an avenue to becoming a healthier and happier member of the Ole Miss family.

“I see happier students across campus, especially ones that I know are using the treatment team,” he said. “They are more engaged.

“If you let somebody be heard and let them know you care, their attitude is going to change. Now student veterans who may have felt overlooked know we have this thing that says, ‘We’re here for you and we’re going to help you.’”

PRESS RELEASE: University Recognized for Student Veteran Services, Treatment

Rankings place Ole Miss in top 5 percent nationally for military services

Andrew Newby (left), UM assistant director for veteran and military services, speaks with guests at the opening of the Veterans Resource Center. Newby has implemented several new services that have helped Ole Miss rise in the rankings among public institutions for supporting military veteran students. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has been recognized as a top institution for military veteran students for 2019 by both Military Times and College Factual.

Military Times ranked Ole Miss among the leaders in student veteran treatment in its annual rankings, with the university coming in at No. 85 nationally among all public institutions.

Ole Miss also finished in the top 5 percent of schools nationally – No. 65 among public universities – for “veteran friendliness” in College Factual’s Best for Vets category for 2019. It is the second straight year that the university has been the best school for veterans in Mississippi on the College Factual list.

“(The rankings) are huge for the university, because we essentially are a new office,” said Andrew Newby, assistant director of veteran and military services. “In 2013, (the university) really began the initiative of putting a priority on veterans. So, we went basically from nonexistence to now being recognized in multiple publications.”

The rankings consider a variety of factors, including veteran affordability, veteran support services and available resources, that combine to form the best educational experience for student veterans. The goal, according to College Factual, is to “help veterans identify colleges that are likely to be supportive of them and their unique needs.”

This approach is important because student veterans face different challenges than traditional students, Newby said.

“This gives us the ability to say to these veterans, ‘If you want a good college experience and you want somebody who understands all the facets of you as a veteran, then this is where you go in Mississippi,’” he said. “We are putting faces and names to that invisible identity of ‘a veteran.’”

The university’s highest categorical ranking was second nationwide for student veterans seeking degrees in health professions, College Factual said.

Ole Miss has instituted programs that allow student veterans to have their voices heard and to allow individual issues to be addressed, said Evan Ciocci, Student Veterans Association president.

“It is eye-opening to see how much the student veterans program has grown in my time here,” he said. “We’ve improved immensely to change the atmosphere surrounding student veterans in higher education.

“With the Veterans Resource Center and Veteran Treatment Team, resources have been more accessible ranging from academic success to health care.”

The Veterans Resource Center opened in February in the E.F. Yerby Conference Center. The center provides the university’s 1,400 military-connected students with academic resources, test materials and a place to gather and connect.

The Veterans Treatment Team brings together a collection of health care professionals, social workers and academic resources on campus to provide student veterans with a holistic plan to achieve their educational and personal goals.

That hands-on approach with each individual veteran allows the university to separate itself from its peers, Newby said.

“At the end of the day, we are making happy alumni who are successful in the workforce,” he said. “When you come to Ole Miss, I’m going to make sure you can get a job, that you’re going to enjoy your time and that you’re going to have good memories of being an Ole Miss Rebel.”

The needs of veterans are evolving and often, the old traditions of only providing a place for student veterans to gather and trade war stories are not enough for the younger generation of military students, Newby said.

“That’s what today’s vet does not want,” he said. “So, what we went out from there to do was to give them a sense of purpose.

“They all have servant’s hearts. That’s why they joined the military. So why not make the SVA a service organization that actually does things you want to be a part of?”

Newby and others did this by implementing a variety of community and campus service opportunities for student veterans to get involved, including the Ole Miss Wish, a philanthropic effort that works with military families to give children an unforgettable Ole Miss experience.

The Office of Veteran and Military Services staff does not plan to rest on its laurels, and new programs are in the works on campus.

“We are actively working toward more resources to help transition veterans and set them up for success in higher education and into their career fields,” Ciocci said. “I see a bright future for veterans’ services as we continue to grow.”

College Factual provides data analytics to compare more than 2,500 colleges and universities across the nation in a variety of categories. Military Times covers topics relevant to service members at home and abroad.

For more information on UM’s Office of Veteran and Military Services, visit https://vms.olemiss.edu/.

Press Release: Ole Miss Ranked Best University for Veterans in Mississippi

The University of Mississippi has been named the best university for student veterans in the state by College Factual.

November 22, 2018 BY ANNA GIBBS, HOTTYTODDY.COM

With nearly 200 student veterans at UM, it’s an accomplishment Andrew Newby, Assistant Director of Veteran and Military Services at the university, described as a “culture shift” in the campus climate – one that’s taken place in less than two years.

“Being the best in the state means a lot to me because we’ve really worked to change the way we do things since my arrival last year,” Newby said. “We always have more work to do, but this is proof that we are making meaningful impacts in the lives of student veterans. Being in the top five percent nationally says a lot about the way our University is doing things now, and we will continue to ensure our veterans are a priority.”

Demonstrating the university’s renewed commitment to its veterans would not be possible without the efforts of the Ole Miss Student Veterans Association. Implementing events like the Veterans Gala, recognizing those who served at sporting events and launching the nonprofit philanthropy Ole Miss Wish are just a few ways the SVA gives back to the community.

However, according to SVA president and the United States Navy veteran Evan Ciocci, the most important factors contributing to this achievement are the opening of UM’s first Veterans Resource Center and, with it, expanded services that provide holistic care for veterans in need.

“In the past year and a half, veterans services at Ole Miss have improved immensely,” Ciocci said. “We now have a veteran treatment team to make healthcare more accessible and are continuing to make a more welcoming atmosphere for student veterans transitioning from military to student life.”

Ole Miss beat out 14 other Mississippi universities to claim the top spot, with Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi coming in second and third, respectively.

For more information on veteran services at the University of Mississippi, visit https://vms.olemiss.edu. To read the original post from College Factual, click here.

Press Release: UM Student Veterans Association Reaches New Heights

NOVEMBER 10, 2018 BY CHRIS KWIECINSKI, Oxford Eagle

Ole Miss’ football game against South Carolina featured what was the crowning achievement for the University of Mississippi’s Student Veterans Association so far.

Veteran and Military Services Assistant Director Andrew Newby and head football coach Matt Luke, with 60,000 fans looking on, were able to give 13-year-old Benjamin Clark an all-expenses paid trip to Disney World.

This act was a noble one for the university, as Clark’s B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia is in remission, and doing it as the new assistant director of a growing program was also a bold task.

“We began planning, and it was literally 11 months of planning and execution,” Newby said. “We had these ve areas, that are all different, that we had to prepare for with one person in veteran military services, three people in athletics, and three people in ROTC.”

Being able to pull it off was an enormous accomplishment for Newby. Partially because when Newby came to Oxford in August of 2017, his job didn’t exist.

From the ground up, Newby has built one of the most successful student veterans programs in not only the state of Mississippi, but also in the entire nation.

According to collegefactual.com, UM is rated as the top school for veterans in the state of Mississippi and 88th in the nation. Previously UM was not ranked nationally.

The reason why UM’s program has achieved so much, is because Newby gets to “roll out the red carpet” and try and create opportunities for the 1,400 student veterans enrolled.

A way the program can provide an immediate impact is by breaking down the war-loving stereotype that veterans carry.

“We’ve got writers, we’ve got painters, we’ve got thinkers, we’ve got musicians,” Newby said.

“What we get to do in my of ce is elevate that and bring that to the forefront … We’re changing that culture.”

As Newby described, UM’s student veterans association works with the whole person, instead of a singular identity of a veteran, and put student veterans in front of faculty members of their desired eld to help veterans gure out how to be successful.

The program also focuses on bringing the student veterans together into a bigger group, instead of joining into smaller groups with other veterans and not completely integrating back into campus life.

The challenge with that, however, comes when a veteran tries to integrate him or herself back into civilian life.

Newby, a member of the Marines Corps, knows this struggle rst hand.

“It’s a huge culture shock,” Newby said. “You go from, in the military, the structure of knowing exactly where you stand, day-to-day in every facet of your life.”

UM’s program combats that culture shock by having physicians in Oxford, which can work with Veteran Affairs (VA) physicians and provide medicine locally, instead of requiring veterans to travel to one of the nearest VA of ces in Tupelo, Jackson or Memphis to receive their medication.

While the support UM can offer student veterans is already being recognized on the state level, Newby said he wants the school to be one of the top schools in the nation for veterans.

And those kinds of aspirations include building on the foundation Newby has created. This includes planning to top what the Student Veterans Association did for Benjamin Clark, which Newby has already started planning for.

“What are you doing right now in school,” Newby said. “That’s what matters, because you’re here to get a degree, and to go be successful in the job market you’re going into.”

Press Release: Ole Miss Wish Granted to Cancer Survivor

Benjamin Clark honored with Disney trip, memorable weekend thanks to Student Veterans Association

Ole Miss Wish Kid Benjamin Clark celebrates with his family when he hears that he is going to Disney World courtesy of the nonprofit Walkers for Warriors and the Student Veterans Association. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD – The crowd of nearly 60,000 roared Saturday (Nov. 3) as Darth Vader led stormtroopers out of the northwest tunnel onto Hollingsworth Field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Standing alongside his family, 13-year-old Benjamin Clark, sporting an Ole Miss cap and vest, threw up his hands and cheered as the legendary Star Wars character approached with a signed football from Rebel coach Matt Luke.

On the video board, Luke, joined by Andrew Newby, assistant director of the University of Mississippi’s Office of Veteran and Military Services, told Clark that he and his family were receiving an all-expenses-paid, five-day trip to Disney World, courtesy of the nonprofit Walkers for Warriors.

After hearing this, Clark – who is in remission after being diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in late 2015 – grinned, tossed his football into the air, caught it coolly and threw up a “Fins Up” sign to the thousands of cheering fans.

It was the culmination of a weekend’s worth of events honoring the Yazoo City native, who was this fall’s Ole Miss Wish Kid.

Benjamin’s trip to Oxford – which featured leading the team through the Walk of Champions, touring athletics facilities and firing the ROTC cannon – was more than just a Rebel fan’s perfect Saturday morning. On Friday, Benjamin was proclaimed the university’s first “Kid President” and signed a proclamation ordering all future Ole Miss Wish Kids serve in the same role.

Benjamin said he was honored to be able to represent future children who are battling hardships.

“Being kid president was a little pressuring at first, but then it was super exciting,” Benjamin said. “It makes me feel great, and I want other kids to come and have a good time like I did.”

Andrew Newby (left center), assistant director for Veteran and Military Services, signs a proclamation declaring Ole Miss Wish Kid Benjamin Clark as ‘Kid President’ of the University of Mississippi on Friday (Nov. 2) as Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter looks on at the Lyceum. The proclamation states that all future Ole Miss Wish recipients will also serve as ‘Kid President.’ Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Ole Miss Wish is a philanthropic effort of the Ole Miss Student Veterans Association. The program works with military families to give children the Ole Miss experience.

Benjamin’s father, U.S. Air Force Maj. Caleb Clark, is a chaplain with the Mississippi Air National Guard’s 172nd Airlift Wing.

Benjamin smiled constantly throughout the whirlwind of activities, despite the occasional fatigue and other side effects from his ongoing battle with leukemia.

“He is a trooper,” his mother, Teri Clark, said. “Ninety-five percent of the time, he is smiling and doesn’t let it get him down. He’s more concerned about other people and making sure everyone else is comfortable.

“He’ll get down and talk to smaller kids, younger children. He gets down on their level and talks with them and encourages them. He’ll say, ‘Look at me; I can take it.’”

Benjamin’s illness has forced him to deal with things most other teenagers do not have to think about. It’s his ability to deal with these hardships that attracted Newby and the Student Veterans Associationto Benjamin and made him an easy choice for Ole Miss Wish.

“The thing I want Benjamin to take away from this weekend is that he is such a powerful example of what it means to go through hard things well,” Newby said. “His attitude is absolutely inspiring, because he doesn’t let on that he’s having a hard time.

“He is such a bright soul, and giving him this experience has been a joy for all of us.”

Benjamin met Jordan Ta’amu on Friday during his tour of athletics facilities and tossed a football with the Rebel quarterback during pre-game warmups. After leading the team through the Grove along the Walk of Champions, an experience he called “overwhelming,” Benjamin greeted each player and coach as they came onto the field.

“(Coach Luke) told me I was going to have a fun day, and said I was the team’s good luck charm,” he said.

Benjamin’s love of Ole Miss stems heavily from his love of watching Rebel football with his father, and he said getting to play a major role in the game-day experience Saturday was special.

Newby said Benjamin’s interaction with Ta’amu, who Benjamin called “very kind,” was a highlight of the weekend.

“Watching the two of them just enjoy the morning together is something I’ll remember for a long time,” Newby said. “Jordan and Benjamin just talked about life. There was no rush, there was no worry.

“It was beautiful, and it really made his experience that much greater because it showed him that he matters.”

Ole Miss Wish Kid Benjamin Clark high-fives Tony the Landshark on Saturday (Nov. 3) after receiving news that he and his family were given an all-expenses-paid trip to Disney World at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Benjamin is a cancer survivor and was honored on campus by the Student Veterans Association. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

After firing the ROTC cannon when the Rebels took the field, Benjamin was given the shell casing, which he plans to put on his desk at home as a keepsake of his Ole Miss Wish experience.

A patient at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the UM Medical Center, Benjamin is inspired by his situation to help others when he gets older.

“The past few years, the nurses in the hospital have taken care of me and made this trial a lot easier to bear,” he said. “Because of that, I want to be a pediatric nurse to do all those things they’ve done for me.”

Walkers for Warriors co-founder Nicholas Roylance joined the Clarks on the sidelines Saturday to celebrate their trip. Like Roylance, Benjamin is a big Star Wars fan, and the costumes and pageantry of the presentation fit the Walkers for Warriors style.

The nonprofit generates money by attending cosplay conventions for “The Walking Dead.” Walkers for Warriors raised more than $7,500 to pay for flights, hotel, resort passes, food vouchers and everything else that goes along with a Disney World trip.

“I’m elated (to give Benjamin this opportunity),” Roylance said. “I just wanted to give the kid a hug and tell him to have a good time.”

More than $1,200 in spending money was raised for Benjamin by the O.D. Smith Masonic Lodge No. 33, of Oxford, and Belk Ford.

“This opportunity with Ole Miss Wish and Veteran and Military Services at Ole Miss was the perfect chance to make a lasting impact in a young man’s life,” said Ray Dees, the lodge’s junior warden. “This family has already experienced so much, and as a military family they already give of themselves, so the Masons wanted to give them a wonderful experience, and this was a great chance to do just that.”

Caleb Clark said it was an honor for his family to experience all it did over the weekend, but he also was proud to see the way the university recognized current and former student veterans during Warrior Week.

“I think it’s vitally important to emphasize that military and education aren’t distinct from one another,” Clark said. “I always like to see a strong connection between education and the military.

“It’s important for people to see (service members) as living, breathing, thinking, problem-solvers. So many of our folks on staff at 172nd are Ole Miss alums.”

In mid-April, Benjamin will mark a major milestone in his cancer treatment as he gathers with family and friends to celebrate the end of chemotherapy. Soon after, on April 28, he and his family plan to pack their bags for Orlando to visit Disney World.

Ole Miss Wish Kid Benjamin Clark (center) is joined by his family on campus for a weekend of festivities. Benjamin celebrated his Ole Miss Wish with (from left) his sister, Carolyn Grace; father, Maj. Caleb Clark; brother, Joshua; and mother, Teri. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“We decided we were going to Toy Story Land first,” Benjamin said.

“We’ll be done with chemo and then going on this trip,” Teri Clark said. “It’s going to be a whole big ‘No Mo Chemo’ party.”

Teri Clark said she was thrilled to see her son, and the rest of her family, be treated so kindly and given gifts they will remember for a lifetime.

“Throughout Benjamin’s whole cancer journey, people are like, ‘I don’t know how you do what you do,’” she said. “But you just do what you have to do. We’re just dealing with the hand that we’ve been dealt. We don’t do anything extraordinary.

“And it’s really overwhelming and humbling to be given the blessing that Ole Miss gave us.”

Press Release: UM Hosts Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Warrior Week

Student veterans, programs on display during visit from Robert L. Wilkie Jr.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie Jr. speaks with UM public policy students Nov. 2 at the Trent Lott Leadership Institute. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD – The University of Mississippi hosted U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie Jr. last week during the university’s observance of Warrior Week.

Wilkie, a member of the U.S. Cabinet and an officer in the Air Force Reserve, spent time meeting with members of the Student Veterans Association on campus Friday morning (Nov. 2) at the Veterans Resource Center. There, he heard questions and concerns from student veterans on a variety of topics.

“I was here to tell them that the VA is a place for them as they move on in life,” Wilkie said. “That it is more than just a hospital or a clinic. We have a lot of educational services that ensure, in most cases, that young veterans have the funds to go to school.”

As the student veteran population gets younger – for the first time since the 1970s, more than half of U.S. veterans are under age 65 – Veterans Affairs hopes to cater its services toward younger beneficiaries, Wilkie said.

Wilkie’s visit offered Ole Miss students and leaders an opportunity to showcase the commitment being made to veteran and military personnel.

Andrew Newby, assistant director for Veteran and Military Services, said he was proud to show Wilkie that Ole Miss is making strides in improving the lives of student veterans across campus.

“His visit shows the student veterans of Ole Miss that, as an institution, we have gained invaluable support from the top down, and it is incredibly important to each and every one of them,” Newby said. “It is wonderful to have Secretary Wilkie on campus because we are working to become the standard for caring for student veterans on a college campus.

“Having the leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs on campus gives us the ability to showcase our progress.”

Wilkie is no stranger to the university – his ties to Ole Miss go back generations. Somerville Hall was named after his great-great-grandmother, Lucy Somerville Howorth. His great-grandfather, Abram Somerville, used to walk him around campus in the 1970s.

“I have seen (Ole Miss) through the eyes of a child, and it is great to be back,” Wilkie said.

Wilkie, who served as counsel and adviser on international security affairs to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, spoke with students at the Lott Leadership Institute on Friday and also visited the Mississippi State Veterans Home in Oxford.

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter touted Wilkie’s appearance on campus during a welcoming event at the Lyceum.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie Jr. presents a Department of Veterans Affairs coin to Ole Miss Wish Kid Benjamin Clark and his father Caleb Clark Nov. 2 at the Lyceum. Wilkie met the Clarks while visiting Ole Miss for Warrior Week. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“We are very honored to have our Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie here, especially with this week being Warrior Week and Military Appreciation Weekend,” Vitter said.

On Friday night, Wilkie attended the inaugural Veterans Alumni Gala and participated in the pre-game coin toss at Saturday’s Ole Miss football game.

Wilkie said he enjoyed his trip to Oxford and admired the improvements the university has made since he visited as a child.

“The last time I came to a game here, (Johnny) Vaught was still here,” Wilkie said. “It’s changed a lot since then.”

Press Release: Scooting to Success: 77-Year-Old Veteran Starts Class at Ole Miss With a New Ride

77-year-old veteran starts class at Ole Miss with a new ride

AUGUST 21, 2018 BY ANNA GIBBS

Jim Willis, 76, uses a scooter provided by Volunteers for Veterans to go to class at Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss. on Monday, August 20, 2018. Ole Miss students began classes on Monday.

OXFORD, Miss. – James “Handsome Jim” Willis isn’t the typical Ole Miss student, but thanks to a few good Samaritans, the soon-to-be 77-year-old will be scooting to success this semester.

Willis is a Navy veteran and retired Teamster who, after 28 years, is fulfilling his lifelong dream of earning a degree. A social sciences major, Willis said he realized he needed to take classes on campus, but wasn’t sure how that would happen due to limited mobility from coronary artery disease.

“I’m handicapped. I can walk, but only about 50 feet before I’ve got to sit down,” Willis said. “I can park in the handicap spots, but I’ve still got to go to the buildings somehow.”

Once Andrew Newby, Assistant Director for Veteran and Military Services, found out Willis enrolled at Ole Miss, Newby said he made it his mission to help Willis. The first day they met, Newby said he noticed Willis had difficulty walking from the handicap parking spot outside Martindale Hall to the Veterans and Military Services office on the third floor.

Newby said he exhausted several options before finding someone to donate a scooter for Willis, but was fortunate to find local organization Volunteers for Veterans Oxford.

“Volunteers for Veterans actually helps veterans in the community, and the community is big – it doesn’t just include the veterans home or the VFW or just the student veterans,” Newby said. “We have this giant group of veterans, and we’re connecting town and gown through partnerships like this. There was a problem, and these guys presented a real solution. It’s the best solution we could do right now, and it’s a good one.”

He called Joe Dickey and Tony Deal, leaders of the organization. Within an hour, they secured a brand-new Jazzy scooter from Jackson-based company Mobility Medical.

Newby said, while Willis is the first 77-year-old student veteran he’s worked with, he already knows he’ll be an asset on campus. Willis completed 98 credits 28 years ago at Ramapo College in his native New Jersey, so he said he looked forward to getting his feet wet in a classroom setting.

Every time he’s on campus, Willis will park outside the Veterans Resource Center in the Yerby Hall basement and pick up the scooter. He’ll be able to drive it up ramps, in elevators and even inside classrooms before returning it to the VRC to charge for the next day.

“The veterans are really good guys, and made me feel comfortable and are so excited that, at my age, I’m going back to school,” Willis said. “They said, ‘That’s fantastic. It’s a good thing for the younger guys to see.’”

Newby and the University have also matched Willis with a personal academic adviser, Jennifer Phillips. Corey Blount, an access services coordinator with Student Disability Services, as well as the University’s sign language interpreter, is also working with Willis.

“(Blount’s) wonderful to work with, especially with my population of students, because he’ll do anything and everything,” Newby said. “… He’s going to work with this guy who’s completely outside his wheelhouse, because he actually cares.”

Success seems to be the name of the game for Willis, who proudly proclaims to be 28 years sober and said he’s looking forward to offering a listening ear to classmates who think they have a substance abuse problem.

As a standing junior, Willis acknowledges he’s got a long road ahead before he gets his diploma, but said he’s excited to scoot across the stage as an 80-year-old graduate.

Press Release: Ole Miss Wish Makes One Special Fan’s Day

Colton Bullock’s adventure is part of Student Veterans Association charity effort

May 2, 2018 BY SHEA STEWART

OXFORD, Miss. – On Friday afternoon (April 27), the Walk of Champions through the Grove at the University of Mississippi was reserved for just one champion: 8-year-old Colton Bullock of Brandon.

Colton, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 3 in September 2013, was made an honorary lifetime member of the Ole Miss Student Veterans Association before that evening’s Ole Miss vs. LSU baseball game at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field. To celebrate the honor, the association bestowed upon Colton his own walk through the Grove before a ride to the stadium aboard an Oxford Fire Department fire engine, complete with flashing lights and blaring sirens.

Colton’s honor was made possible through My Ole Miss Wish, a philanthropic effort of the Ole Miss Student Veterans Association, a nonprofit that works to solve complex issues surrounding veterans in higher education. My Ole Miss Wish works with military families to give children unforgettable Ole Miss experiences in partnership with Charter Road Hospitality and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Colton is the son of Ken Bullock, a first lieutenant in the Mississippi Air National Guard where he serves as a flight nurse, and Brittney Bullock.

Supporting military families is important because it is part of the university’s Flagship Forward Strategic Plan, which includes building healthy and vibrant communities, said Andrew Newby, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and UM assistant director of Veteran and Military Services.

“The SVA is composed of student veterans dedicated to service, and this initiative allows them to serve in new and different ways by making impacts in the lives of our state,” Newby said. “Student veterans understand the transient nature of military families, and with this in mind, we want to make sure they understand that they have a place within the Ole Miss family.”

Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco offers a few words of encouragement to Colton Bullock. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Colton’s day also included a Pass and Review Parade with more than 150 members of the university’s ROTC program and Ole Miss family saluting him, a meet-and-greet with the Rebels baseball team and throwing out the first pitch at the game

On Saturday (April 28), Colton was involved in a Nerf gun war that raged across the Grove. The family’s hotel stay was provided by Charter Road Hospitality, which operates several hotels.

“My Ole Miss Wish will continue to find military families with an affinity or affiliation to the university, and hopes to work with one family in the fall and one in the spring,” Newby said. “As the program gains traction, we hope the community will continue to support our efforts, as they have so far with the new additions to our programming and initiatives on campus.

“The goal in all of this is to make the University of Mississippi nationally relevant for veterans, and we are heading in the right direction.”

The Ole Miss Student Veterans Association was introduced to Colton and his story during this year’s RebelTHON charity, a dance marathon that raised a record-breaking $265,912.30 for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the UM Medical Center, exceeding its goal of $225,000. Colton is a patient at Batson.

“The purpose of My Ole Miss Wish is to give Ole Miss experiences to children with illnesses and military families,” said Evan Ciocci, a Navy veteran who serves as president of the Ole Miss Student Veterans Association. “It is important to support the family of military as it is the military member.

“It is our way of giving back to the community and continuing to serve; though our service time is up, (it) doesn’t mean we cannot continue to serve.”

Colton arrived for his wish clad in a powder blue Ole Miss baseball hat and jersey, as the ROTC cadets in uniforms and green-and-blue camouflage lined the Walk of Champions.

Colton’s honorary lifetime member statement was read aloud to him, noting his “strength, courage and amazing ability to overcome any obstacles.”

“Your genuine love and support of your family, your respect for your parents and your love for Ole Miss make this an easy decision,” the statement read. “We look forward to great things from you in the future, and hope you will accept this small token of appreciation as a sign of commitment to you, your family and your future.”

With that, the No. 1 question on the Ole Miss campus was asked: “Are you ready?” Then the crowd erupted with Hotty Toddy as Colton made his way down the walk, high-fiving the blue-, red- and green-clad throng awaiting him.

To nominate children and families to participate in My Ole Miss Wish, contact Andrew Newby at andrew@olemiss.edu. Please put “My Ole Miss Wish” in the subject line.

Press Release: Ole Miss Unveils Purple Heart Recognition Program

Purple Heart recipients receive Purple Heart Parking Pass, unveil Purple Heart Parking Spot at heart of campus

April 24, 2018 BY EDWIN B. SMITH

OXFORD, Miss. – Most University of Mississippi students are restricted from parking in certain areas of campus, but that is about to change for Don Zielenski and other Purple Heart recipients at Ole Miss.

The sophomore from south Texas is the first to receive the new Purple Heart Parking Pass, which allows owners to park anywhere on campus. The permit will be unveiled during the university’s Purple Heart Recognition Program at 10 a.m. April 24 on the Lyceum steps.

The event will highlight efforts by the Office of Veteran and Military Services to honor the university’s veteran community and promote access across UM’s official Purple Heart University campus.

“The Purple Heart Recognition Program allows students, faculty, staff and retirees the opportunity to exchange their current parking pass for a Purple Heart Parking Pass,” said Andrew Newby, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and UM assistant director of veteran and military services. “This pass allows the recipient to park in any lot within any space on campus.

“We will have a dedicated space in the Lyceum Circle that is marked with a Purple Heart placard, which will allow visitors with proper proof of Purple Heart credentials to access the space as well.”

The April 24 program schedule includes the March of the Colors by the ROTC Color Guard and the official party, the national anthem performed by the University Low Brass Group and opening remarks from Evan Ciocci of Sandwich, Massachusetts, a sophomore information systems management and computer science major and president of the Student Veterans Association.

Newby will discuss VMS programming, present the parking pass and unveil the parking spot on the Circle as the ceremony ends.

Zielenski was a cavalry scout in the U.S. Army. While on deployment as a turret gunner on mounted vehicle patrol, he was struck during a mortar attack. Pushing through his injuries, Zielenski continued to fire on the enemy, which resulted in a Bronze Star Medal with Valor device and a Purple Heart.

Months later on the same deployment, he was on foot patrol when an improvised explosive device triggered a set of explosives placed on top of a building. The building collapsed onto Zielenski, rupturing his spleen, which was removed in transit aboard a helicopter, collapsing a lung and crushing his skull. His injuries left him deaf and blind on the left side of his face, and he was awarded a second Purple Heart.

“Don recovered from his injuries and is now majoring in psychology,” Newby said. “He intends to work with veterans experiencing PTS and TBI. We look forward to great things from Don, and are excited to honor him here at this Purple Heart campus.”

Zielenski said he is honored to have been chosen as the first student to receive the Purple Heart Parking Pass.

“Andrew has helped our Student Veterans Association progress by leaps and bounds in the short time he has been here,” said the veteran, who was stationed at Camp Hovey South Korea in 2008, then deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. “Being part of the Student Veterans helped tremendously upon arriving my freshman year. This organization gave me a great group of people I could associate with.”

Three years ago, UM, the city of Oxford and Lafayette County were named a Purple Heart University, a Purple Heart City and a Purple Heart County for their efforts to create a welcoming environment for veterans and Purple Heart recipients. The Purple Heart is a military decoration given only to those wounded or killed in combat.

While UM is one of four SEC institutions to hold the Purple Heart University designation, it is the first university in Mississippi to receive the designation in conjunction with the city and county in which it is located.

“The special things that Ole Miss does specifically for veterans that attend the university are what qualify them to become a Purple Heart University,” said Ben Baker, commander of the Oxford Purple Heart Chapter.

The university’s Office of Veteran and Military Services was created in April 2013 to provide comprehensive resources for veterans, active members of the military and their dependents, and to assist them in becoming successful as Ole Miss students.

“Being named a Purple Heart University means we support, honor and welcome veterans to this great campus,” said Matt Hayes, senior military instructor for Army ROTC and a Purple Heart recipient. “When you have a campus that is supportive of your goals and ambitions, it really gives the veteran the inspiration and drive to succeed.”

Ole Miss is home to 1,355 military-connected students, 959 of whom are using GI Education Benefits.

Press Release: Ole Miss Opens First Veterans Resource Center

Student Veterans have a dedicated space on campus

February 22, 2018 BY CHRISTINA STEUBE

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi hosted a grand opening Wednesday (Feb. 21) of its Veterans Resource Center, which will provide student veterans with a variety of benefits to improve their quality of life on campus.

More than 1,300 Ole Miss students are veterans, active military or military dependents. This center serves as a space for them to study, receive support and camaraderie from other veterans and speak with university representatives about veteran issues, such as GI benefits and treatment.

The center is in the basement of the E.F. Yerby Conference Center and will be open to veterans on campus 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

The student veteran population on campus continues to grow, making this facility a much-needed resource to provide the best possible assistance for these students in their transition from the military to college life, said Evan Ciocci, president of the Student Veterans Association.

“We are extremely grateful the university is working to better our quality of life on campus and from here on out, we want to continue to provide resources, advocacy and support for student veterans,” said Ciocci, a sophomore general studies major from Sandwich, Massachusetts, who served in the U.S. Navy.

“SVA and veteran services provided the support to make Mississippi my home, and I love it here.”

Andrew Newby, assistant director for veterans and military services at the UM Center for Student Success and First Year Experience, has been working on providing a space for student veterans since his arrival at Ole Miss last year.

“We are so pleased to have this space for our student veterans to utilize and hopefully outgrow,” Newby said.

The resource center also will provide student veterans with academic resources and test materials, such as Scantrons and textbooks. The center is seeking donations of any unwanted textbooks to provide more options for its students.

Press Release: Free Law School Available for Eligible Veterans

Initiative covers costs for those qualifying under Post-9/11 GI Bill®

OXFORD, Miss. – Beginning this fall, veterans eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill® Yellow Ribbon Program who enroll at the University of Mississippi School of Law will have their tuition paid in full.

Using a combination of funds from the Department of Veteran Affairs, the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program and the university, veterans who served at least three years of active duty since Sept. 11, 2001 can go to law school for free.

“We are honored to participate in this initiative to fund law school for our veterans,” said Susan Duncan, UM Law Dean. “We owe a great debt to those who have served, and we feel this is the least we can do to honor their commitment to this country.”

The opportunity to utilize the Yellow Ribbon Program is available for any student veteran who has been accepted to law school and who meets the criteria for 100 percent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, said Andrew Newby, the University’s Assistant Director of Veteran and Military Services.

For student veterans accepted to Ole Miss who qualify for any other chapter of the GI Bill®, they will be eligible for a Non-Resident Tuition Scholarship that will pay the out-of-state portion of their tuition.

“There is no limit to the number of students that can use the Yellow Ribbon Program, and no limit for students using the Non-Resident Tuition Scholarship,” Newby said.

 

 

Purple Heart Campus Yellow Ribbon Program NAVPA member logo