Military and Veterans Office Serves Growing Student Segment

Posted: February 13, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson
Photo by Catherine Ferraro

The transition to college can be difficult for any student, but for military students, whether they are currently serving or veterans, the experience can bring daunting challenges.

With the introduction of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, which will go into effect on Aug. 1, 2009, Mason’s current population of nearly 1,000 student veterans is expected to rise by as much as 25 percent. Such an increase makes it more important than ever to provide specialized support services to this unique group of students.

“Mason has realized that providing services to veterans is an area that needs additional attention, particularly with the expected influx from the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” says Michael Johnson, Mason’s military and veterans liaison.

“Mason is one of only a handful of universities that have created a staff position specifically to support student veterans, and I am excited to be part of cutting-edge programs designed to assist this diverse group of students and their specialized needs.”

Through Mason’s Military and Veterans Office located in the Office of Admissions, students can get assistance and information regarding issues such as veteran services and academic counseling, as well as learn about the many benefits to which they are entitled through state and federal governments.

Furthermore, the office assists veterans in adapting from military life to collegiate life, connecting and supporting them as they pursue their Mason studies. The office also works on new strategies aimed at ensuring an overall military-friendly atmosphere at Mason.

The services provided by the Military and Veterans Office are free and available to students currently serving in the military; those who have completed military service; those receiving veteran’s benefits due to the eligibility of a spouse, parent or other relative; and spouses or dependents of military members.

Having spent 17 years in the United States Marine Corps as an enlisted member and an officer, Johnson understands the exceptional challenges of integrating into the academic community.

Currently, Johnson operates as a one-stop resource center for veterans and their families, meeting with both current and prospective students to answer questions about tuition, academic programs and how military experience may transfer to Mason.

In addition, Johnson works closely with the faculty, staff and Mason administration to expand the university’s services to meet the needs of military students entering the classroom.

He also hopes to establish a central area for military students where they can share experiences, participate in peer counseling sessions and engage in work-study programs.

To best determine their needs and ensure appropriate services are provided, Johnson recently developed and distributed a comprehensive survey to Mason student veterans, which will be followed up with focus groups.

By fall 2009, Johnson expects to have a solid grasp of student veterans’ needs and will use this information to establish a unified resource center.

Since Johnson joined Mason last October, he helped the Office of Admissions revamp the application process to include questions about military service. He also helped create a student activation policy that gives military students who are called to active duty after the beginning of the semester an opportunity to withdraw from all of their courses or work with their professors to take a grade of incomplete.

Johnson is currently working on a veteran payment plan as well as a grant proposal to fund additional support services.

“Student veterans are an exciting asset to the Mason community. Their unique experiences offer alternative perspectives to faculty, staff and other students of the university and provide an opportunity for mutual learning and growth,” says Johnson.

For more information about the Military and Veterans Office and its services, contact the Office of Admissions at 703-993-8243 or e-mail Johnson.

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