How a Virtual Veterans Center supports military students

Connecting veterans and active-duty service members to useful resources — and each other

How a Virtual Veterans Center supports military students

Lance Corporal Samuel Ribeiro, an adjutant clerk on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., receives information from Francis Villeme about the College Level Examination Program at the base library. The CLEP, one resource offered to service members free of charge, allows students to test out of a class for college credit without actually going to class. (Photo by PFC Samuel Ranney)

All working adults need support to succeed academically, be it financial, emotional, or educational. The veteran student is no exception.

“Whether at a brick-and-mortar or an online school, veterans often find it difficult to connect with their non-veteran peers,” said Joshua Jones, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and an AMU student pursuing a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management.

American Military University (AMU) recently launched a new Virtual Veterans Center (VVC), an online information resource, repository of support services, and gathering place for veteran and active-duty students and alumni.

Gathering up needed resources

The VVC is accessed through the university’s private online student center, The Quad. It provides users with branch-specific discussion boards, career services, academic advising, Student Veterans of America chapter information, and a range of other resources.

“The VVC allows them to reach out to others with similar experiences and interests to ease their transition into the classroom,” Jones added. “It also provides resources that many may be unaware are available, but may benefit from.”

“The VVC provides a quick reference to many sources of veteran- related information, grouped according to area of interest,” said U.S. Coast Guard veteran Giles Hoback III, AMU alumnus and adjunct instructor.

Jones and Hoback were among the original beta testers for the site. A group of AMU students and alumni, representing different services branches, was tapped to help make the site as user- friendly, informative, and inclusive as possible. 

The site also offers extensive links to external resources for veterans in several categories: disability services, family services, personal support, veteran centers, veteran discounts, career information, veteran benefits, tuition assistance, and armed forces websites.

VVC features will expand as students and alumni offer feedback and suggestions.

Connecting through shared experiences

An effective veteran center, whether a physical or online space, should help military and veteran students both academically and professionally, as well as encourage peer engagement. Among the resources in our VVC are branch-specific discussion boards.

The key is allowing veterans to connect and network, said Brent Danberry, another Marine Corps veteran and a beta tester. Jones adds that an effective VVC should be used as a general touchstone for social networking among veteran students as well as a solid resource.

“This is particularly important when a veteran may feel the need to talk to someone, but is embarrassed or lacks a sturdy social circle,” Jones said. “Student veterans have very unique readjustment issues that are important to them, yet are often ignored by universities that cater to the traditional 18-to-22-year-old civilian student. The VVC should serve as a template for every online university to reach out to their student veterans.”

No matter their specific background, veteran students have similar experiences and challenges. By enabling them to connect with each other, reach out to staff members, and share their stories, the VVC program will help improve their overall academic experience.

About the Author

George Vukovich, Associate Vice President, Veteran Relations at American Military University, is a retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant with 20 years of service as an infantry Staff Non-Commissioned Officer. He was instrumental in the growth of AMU within the military community as director of military outreach. He is a past president of the Virginia Advisory Council for Military Education.