A relentless drive to provide the best support and services to military-students has vaulted The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) to an impressive No. 3 national ranking by the prestigious resource guide Military Times.
USM is also rated No. 1 in the Southeast by Military Times in its “Best for Vets: Colleges 2021 Rankings.” The newest position represents a significant leap for USM, which held a No. 9 national ranking the past two years. USM is one of three Mississippi universities listed in the Top 30, as the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University are ranked 23rd and 26th respectively.
The University’s Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families was launched in 2014 under the direction of Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond (U.S. Army, ret.) At that time approximately 300 military-students were enrolled at USM. Today, that number exceeds 1,700 with services available on the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses. Hammond says the latest ranking validates the tireless efforts many have made to develop a comprehensive program for military-students.
“We established our program about seven years ago with the goal to be the best,” said Hammond. “Hard work, authentic student care, teamwork, accountability and a heartfelt commitment to achieving success pays off. It truly means we are blessed and most grateful for having been provided the opportunity to create a campus program that places the needs of others above those of our own and thus allows us to make a difference in the lives of our student-veterans and their families.”
Among its numerous services, the USM center provides:
- Space to study and/or socialize
- Counseling on Veterans Affairs benefits and financial aid
- Processing of Veterans Affairs benefits and financial aid
- Academic help, such as tutoring
- Mentorship programs
- Class registration
- Career advising
- Legal aid
- Military-related service projects
- Help for physically disabled vets,
- Mental health counseling
“The work that General Hammond and his staff do every day to support our veteran population and to create a comprehensive program for military-students has placed us as one of the best in the South and in Mississippi. I am proud and appreciative of the hard work and dedication shown by our staff to support our students,” said Dr. Dee Dee Anderson, Vice President for Student Affairs at USM.
Hammond’s vision for the veterans program, supported enthusiastically by University administrators, has been enhanced by construction of a new center on the Hattiesburg campus. Last November, the USM Foundation held groundbreaking for the Quinlan-Hammond Hall of Honor, named after lead benefactor and USM alumnus, Joe Quinlan, and Hammond, the center’s founding director.
The Quinlan-Hammond Hall of Honor represents the first 100-percent privately funded building initiative through the USM Foundation. Thus far, more than 150 alumni and friends from across the country have donated in excess of $3 million, successfully reaching the fund-raising goal.
Construction is well underway on the 5,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that will include a conference room, study space for small groups or individual work, a lounge, as well as other meeting areas and staff office space. The new center is scheduled for completion by year’s end.
When seeking the best in educational opportunities and accommodations, Hammond says the choice should be obvious for student-veterans.
“USM is a community among communities when it comes to supporting our military,” he said. “Furthermore, and bottom line, we are the most comprehensive and complete military-student support program across Mississippi and the South. The Golden Eagle family makes it quite clear that veterans and their families are extremely important people and, as such, are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. At USM, our administrators, faculty and staff work together in seeking solutions for our military students rather than creating roadblocks to their success.”
To view the full rankings, visit: https://colleges.militarytimes.com/. To learn more about the USM Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families, call 601-264-4629 or visit: www.usm.edu/military-veterans.