Marine Corp veteran Adriana Barrera Ramirez says transitioning to college wasn’t simple.
“I originally went to another university, but I didn’t feel like I belonged or that there were any resources available for me there,” she says. “It was very hard to transition from the military to university because even though I had experience, it wasn’t pertaining to education.”
The Winston-Salem native then decided to check out UNC Greensboro (UNCG) and fell in love with the campus and its diversity. The student resources – including first year resources, help for first generation students, and the Military-Affiliated Services office (MAS) – gave her a sense of belonging.
All active duty (including National Guard and reservists) along with veterans can now apply to UNCG with no application fees. Starting in Fall 2023, all activity-duty, veterans and anyone who uses military educational benefits will get priority registration for classes.
UNCG’s commitment to military students has earned the university a designation as a Military-Friendly School, ranking in the Top 10 amongst Tier 2 research institutions.
“It’s not just the dedication and devotion to serving our military population from our office, it is really a university-wide commitment,” says Chris Gregory, director of MAS.
A ONE STOP SHOP
There are about 1,500 military-affiliated students at UNCG. That only includes students who indicate they are military-affiliated during their application process or are using military benefits.
“One of the biggest things we hear from folks that are coming directly from the military to higher education is they don’t really know where to go for things,” says Chris Gregory. “We try to help break down some of those walls and get people to the right connections to make them more successful while they’re here.”
MAS is a one-stop shop for active-duty and veteran students at UNCG. The office helps handle military benefits; scholarships, grants, and loans; and provides a physical space and programming.
“It’s helpful to have that connection to someone who knows what the benefits process entails,” says Barrera Ramirez, who is now a sophomore studying elementary education. “I can also go to MAS and meet with other veterans from different branches and talk about military experiences.”
A STARTING POINT
For U.S. Army veteran Jeff Duncan, transitioning out of the military also wasn’t easy. He joined the Army after the September 11 terrorist attacks and served until 2005 in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“After my service, I was kind of a poster child for floundering around. It was a tough transition to civilian life,” Duncan says.
After trying some different programs, working in event management for a time, and getting his associate degree from Guilford Technical Community College, Duncan found his place at UNCG in 2020.
With help from the Veterans Affairs Veteran Readiness and Employment Program, he is now working toward his bachelor’s degree in Information Systems and Supply Chain Management with the Bryan School of Business and Economics.
“Although I didn’t really fully grasp the information systems portion of my degree track when I was looking at the program, the supply chain management aspect was a draw,” Duncan says. “It’s where I wanted to be, because I felt that with my prior event work, I would transition well into supply chain management.”
Now, Duncan has an internship with BEST Logistics in Winston-Salem and is already considering a master’s degree after he graduates in Spring 2024.
“The online aspect of my degree track is nontraditional, but the Military-Affiliated Services office has given me more access to resources like Career Services, and career fair events at the Kaplan Center,” says Duncan. “It has given me a starting point.”
“SVA is a great way to get our name out there and a great way for us to get involved on campus and meet other organizations as well,” says Barrera Ramirez, who is the SVA vice president for finance and fundraising.
Gregory says veteran students can and should participate in a variety of campus groups, even if they don’t relate to military service, helping to expand their interests and feel welcomed at UNCG.
“I definitely feel like I belong at UNCG,” Barrera Ramirez says. “I’m grateful for everything that the university has done for me so far.”
TRANSITION FROM MILITARY SERVICE TO COLLEGE AT UNCG