April 24, 2013. The Aurora Foundation announced today that it has provided a second grant to the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Center for America's Veterans at Mississippi State University (MSU). The Center, directed by Col. Ken McRae, Ret., created a program to reach the veteran population at MSU with trained faculty and staff members who could be identified as "Mentors." The Program, called Green Zone, is designed to help student veterans identify key resources who can assist with a variety of issues, from benefits to financial aid to informal counseling. Since implementation, 15 Green Zone Mentors have been trained across campus and identify themselves to student veterans by placing a Green Zone emblem on their office doors.
The hard work that continues at MSU is exemplary of a successful Green Zone Program, which is modeled after a similar program under the same name at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Col. McRae reported measurable results back that indicated a positive trend for student veteran retention and graduation.
MSU has over 2,000 student veterans currently enrolled and taking classes. After the implementation of the Green Zone in 2012, over 30% of student veterans on campus went to a mentor to talk about various issues they might have been facing while making the transition to college life. On a 1-5 scale of how impactful their experience with the mentor was (1: not at all; 5: very good), the student veterans rated their experience as 4.6. The school is also seeing a positive impact on the number of student veterans completing college and graduating. The graduation rate of veterans who first enrolled in 2006 (completing school within an average of 6 years) was 72.6%, and the retention rate for all veterans at the school is 61.5%.
Aurora is proud to help sponsor programs like the Green Zone and schools like MSU where veterans have a high priority on campus as well as an increasing chance of succeeding there. We are looking for similar trends in higher ed where faculty and staff are trained and dedicated to helping student veterans make a smooth transition. As data continues to be collected and shared, we look to identify further trends, such as the type of issues veterans bring to their mentors. This way, we can identify common challenges facing veterans on campus and begin to consider future grants that will meet those specific needs.
Sincere thanks to the leadership at Mississippi State and the Center for America's Veterans for the dedication to veterans making the journey "from boots to books to business."