From combat to the classroom: USCA reps talk veteran education

  • Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2014 12:01 a.m.
Staff photo by Maayan Schechter
Dr. Randy Plunkett of the Wounded Warrior Project, left, and USC Aiken’s Director of Veteran and Military Student Success Robert Murphy spoke about integrating military skills throughout higher education.
Staff photo by Maayan Schechter Dr. Randy Plunkett of the Wounded Warrior Project, left, and USC Aiken’s Director of Veteran and Military Student Success Robert Murphy spoke about integrating military skills throughout higher education.

AUGUSTA — Marine Corps veteran Robert Murphy said he believes in the power of higher education because attending college is one of the greatest decisions a veteran can make to help transition from the military into civilian life.

Murphy, director of Veteran and Military Student Success at USC Aiken, spoke on a panel as part of a two-day Aiken-Augusta Warrior Project National Symposium on Friday afternoon. The panel focused on veteran issues throughout higher education.

Murphy was joined by USCA Chancellor Dr. Sandra J. Jordan, Director Dr. Randy Plunkett of the Wounded Warrior Project Education Initiatives and Dean of Students for the TRACK program Mike Owens.

Both Roberts and Jordan touched on the G.I. Bill and also what challenges are facing those who served on a battlefield and who now sit at a desk. Despite the challenges, Murphy said USCA has made great strides to connect with veterans about going to college.

“We are a military-friendly institute because our veteran students say we are,” Murphy said of USCA. “This we can never discount. We are here calling the ones who are out (currently serving) about what’s going on out there, what’s working and what’s not working. Word-of-mouth is a very powerful tool.”

The panel also touched on the structure and general knowledge of the G.I. Bill. The bill was created for veterans, originally those returning from World War II, to provide a range of benefits including tuition payment and living expenses.

Jordan said universities nationwide are stepping up to talk with veteran and military students about benefits, but there’s still room for improvement.

“Veterans do not come with one standard set of needs; it’s true across the board, certainly in education,” Jordan said. “Veterans who are emerging from the military without academic preparation to move into college have some preparation, but feel they have other obstacles in their way that require attention before returning to college. I’m not sure it’s a misunderstanding of how ready they (universities) are to help address veteran and military-student issues. Universities are really stepping up, but it’s (G.I. Bill) not well known yet.”

For more information about USCA’s Veteran and Military Student Success program, visit www.web.usca.edu/vmssc.

Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard. An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree with the University of North Carolina Asheville. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.

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