North Carolina is home to one of the largest military and veteran populations in the nation, and UNC Charlotte, originally founded in part to serve soldiers returning from World War II, has staked its claim to be at the forefront of sustaining a new generation of service members.
Logan Cason, a veteran and UNC Charlotte alumnus, was hired in 2010 to coordinate a new Veteran Students Outreach Program as part of the Division for Student Affairs. Changes to the GI Bill following 9/11 are extending educational opportunities to greater numbers of service members.
“Our goal is to provide comprehensive resources and services to help support the transition of veterans onto our campus,” stated Cason. “They have unique needs with a set of skills that differentiates them from other traditional college-aged students, as well as other non-traditional students. They have been out there in the world with different experiences that can present challenges in a classroom of 18- and 19-year-olds.”
According to research, veteran students may feel alienated in a campus setting, especially after living in intense and close communities built upon a common experience. In addition, many veteran students may have to re-learn academic habits and skills, and they may be challenged to transition from the routines of a regimented life to that of a less-structured academic life. However, discipline, drive, determination and perseverance that are part of military service can help promote academic success, too.
– Logan Cason, Coordinator for Veteran Students Outreach
Cason noted that many veteran students are first-generation college students who are unfamiliar with navigating the bureaucracy of a college campus, so he is a source of one-on-one support for them and aids their connection to the Financial Aid or Disability Services offices, the Counseling Center and other campus units. He also points them to off-campus resources, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Charlotte Vet Center.
In the past three years, UNC Charlotte’s veteran student population has grown from around 300 to around 1,000. Cason worked with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to revise the application to better track veteran students, as well as dependents of veterans.
“UNC Charlotte continually assesses the quality of services it provides to students, and the Veteran Students Outreach Program will seek opportunities to reshape and improve campus policies to be more military-friendly,” said Cason.
The University’s efforts are yielding recognition. For 2011, G.I. Jobs magazine ranked UNC Charlotte among the top 15 percent of schools doing the most to help veterans as students.