Support from Parents Fund fosters community and pride for student veterans

A graduating student veteran shakes hands with UGA President Jere W. Morehead at the 2019 Spring Honor Cord and Awards Reception.

UGA President Jere W. Morehead shakes hands with Joseph Millunzi, the 2018-19 president of the Student Veterans Association, at the Spring Honor Cord and Awards Reception in 2019.

Since 2014, the Parents Fund has supported the Student Veterans Resource Center (SVRC) to address the unique challenges that student veterans face as nontraditional students at UGA. Student veterans are typically older and more likely to have work or family responsibilities outside of the classroom. They are also less likely to take part in cocurricular activities or live on or near campus. Student veterans are more likely to be first-generation students and pursue an independent path at UGA. If left unaddressed, these factors can prevent student veterans from connecting to helpful campus resources and communities.

Generous donors to the Parents Fund have helped mitigate these risks through their support of the SVRC Spring Honor Cord and Awards Reception. This annual event recognizes graduating veterans’ accomplishments with the presentation of a distinctive red, white and blue cord to wear during Commencement. The reception is a wonderful opportunity for student veterans to connect with each other, faculty and staff members, community leaders and UGA President Jere W. Morehead. Unfortunately, faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 reception was canceled. The SVRC instead purchased honor cords and mailed them, along with an official program, pin and letters from senior university officials, to each graduating student veteran.

Thanks to a diverse system of programming, highlighted each year by the presentation of honor cords, UGA’s student veteran participation is at an all-time high, over 80 percent. Yet, the needs of UGA’s nontraditional student veterans remain and new challenges have emerged because of the pandemic.

The SVRC relies on the critical support of the Parents Fund, which is administered by the Parents Leadership Council’s grant program, to help student veterans and their families engage, advance and succeed at UGA. Donors to the Parents Fund have helped UGA remain one of the “Top Three Military-Friendly Tier I Research Universities in the Nation” for the third year in a row, according to the 2020-21 Military Friendly rankings.

“Increasing student engagement has always been a complex challenge, particularly for nontraditional, military-affiliated students. Unfortunately, this issue is compounded by the pandemic and its deleterious effects on human interaction,” said SVRC Director Charles T. (Ted) Barco. “In response, the SVRC moved quickly to adapt and deliver timely and relevant programming to our student veterans regardless of their physical location. Thanks to our partners, like the Parents Fund donors, our programming has not stopped as a result of the pandemic, but rather, consistent with the need, has only increased.”