Success Through the Green Zone

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In July 2010, the Aurora Foundation had the privilege of partnering with Virginia Wounded Warrior Program to create The Green Zone Program on Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus. The Green Zone came about after VCU’s administrators saw a need among their growing student veteran population to be better understood by faculty and staff. Dr. Ann Nichols-Casebolt, an associate vice president for research at VCU, noted in her recent article, “The Green Zone: A Program to Support Military Students on Campus¹,” that “knowledge about, and support of, military students on campus needed to extend throughout the institution if VCU was going to be seen as veteran-friendly.” Ultimately, the goal of the Green Zone Program was to “develop a very visible network of faculty and staff in all schools/colleges and administrative units to whom these students could go to receive assistance.” This approach to train faculty and staff to promote veteran awareness asked all participants to volunteer to be trained, leaving them with a “basic knowledge about the concerns and issues facing military students, and the resources available to assist.”

VCU is not alone in wanting to train their staff and faculty members on issues faced by student veterans. Research from studies over the past two years by the American Council on Education came out in support of this method to make a school “veteran-friendly.” According to a recent publication by ACE called “Promising Practices in Veterans’ Education,” schools who put staff and faculty training programs in place found them to be “vital.”  The training “allowed staff and faculty to have a better understanding of the growing veteran population on campus, dispel myths and stigmas, and provide students with a sense of appreciation when training was noted.” The ability for student veterans to recognize which of their professors is “veteran-friendly” is important to their transition from combat to classroom.  After training is completed, VCU is one of the schools that give their staff participants badges to place on doors for student veterans to recognize which faculty members received Green Zone training.

VCU’s Green Zone Program had been in place for a year when Dr. Nichols-Casebolt decided to collect data and measure the program’s results.  She sent out surveys to VCU’s 356 identified military students, and received responses from 150 (a strong response from a web-based survey). The results showed that while 48% of participants were aware of the Green Zone Program, 70% of participants felt that if they had an issue/concern affecting them, they knew of an individual at VCU to whom they could turn. When asked if they were satisfied with their transition from military to VCU, 90% of participants were satisfied. Finally, 70% of participants affirmed that over the past year, VCU had become a more veteran-friendly university. The hard work of the Green Zone Program is paying off, with over 150 faculty and staff members identifying themselves as Green Zone volunteers; more are awaiting the next training.

The Aurora Foundation is proud to have contributed to successes such as these at VCU, and continues to give grants to help schools become veteran-friendly. If a school can be recognized as a veteran-friendly institution, that means the student veterans’ needs are being met in order for them to be successfully retained through to graduation, and receive the confidence and tools needed to enter the workforce. If your school is interested in applying for a grant from Aurora to create such veteran-friendly programs, please download our grant application and send it toinfo@aurora4vets.org.

¹Nichols-Casebolt, Ann. “The Green Zone: A Program to Support Military Students on Campus” About Campus. March/April 2012. Published online in Wiley Online Library (http://www.wileyonlinelibrary.com).