University salutes the Military

Victoria Briggs, Staff Writer

Francis Marion University (FMU) recently earned a place on the Military Friendly Schools list based on support, recruitment and assistance to students with military experience.

The list honors the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that support students who are in military service, are veterans or spouses of military members.

FMU President and military veteran, Dr. Fred Carter said he was honored that the university was named to the list.

“We are pleased that Francis Marion is accessible to and supportive of military personnel who have served this country so selflessly,” Carter said.  “We will continue to identify ways to serve this distinguished constituency.”

FMU earned a place on the list by exceeding required criteria on a data- driven survey.  Through research and a survey of more than 10,000 Veteran-Active approved schools nationwide, FMU was able to secure a spot among the top 20.  Each year, higher standards are placed upon the surveyed schools, making expectations higher.

Requirements such as on-campus active duty/veteran assistance, recruitment and faculty trained in veteran reintegration issues, full-time counseling and retention were all exceeded by the university.

Currently, FMU is expanding the services and assistance offered to veterans and actives.

Amanda Johnson, Veteran Affairs (VA) representative and student service counselor, offers financial advice and assistance to veterans and actives regarding their VA benefits.  Assistance can also be received from the Counseling and Testing Center.  Accommodations, such as counseling and taking exams outside of the classroom, are given for students who require it.

Since the beginning of fall semester, Student Affairs has initiated a care group for military veterans and actives.  Adviser Cheri Richardson explained that the purpose of the group is to help members balance campus and military life as well as familiarize them with civilian life.

The group also provides members with resources, such as social networks and speakers, for intrapersonal welfare.  Captain Donald Tarbell, a retired Marine, is one such speaker.  Tarbell attends group meetings to offer advice and support.  Tarbell said he believes that the group provides an effective outlet for people who are facing similar experiences.

The meetings are held every four weeks on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. in the University Center. Members attend the meetings to socialize with others like themselves.

Member and veteran Donny Pearis, retired Navy serviceman, said he was pleased to know of FMU’s recent honor.

“FMU is a very military friendly school that welcomed us [veterans and actives] with opened arms and still continues to amaze us,” said Pearis.

Another member, freshman Elliot Christmas, National Guard, said she was glad that groups like this one have been started and hopes to see more support from FMU.

During the university’s last registration, military veterans and actives were invited to attend orientation for transfers.   This invitation was not unprecedented for FMU, but it was the first in a while for the university.

At the orientation, a breakaway session specifically for retried and current military members was held.  During the session, information such as VA benefits and enrollment options was shared with the veterans and actives.

A report of FMU’s honor will be listed among the 2014 Military Friendly Schools and distributed in print and digital form in early October.