GPC Receives 'Military Friendly' Status

10/04/2013
Contact: Rebecca Rakoczy
Phone: 678-891-2691
Fax: 678-891-2966
Author: Rebecca Rakoczy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Georgia Perimeter College has been named a Military Friendly school for the third year in a row, with more than 1,000 veterans attending the college. But for Mark Eister, GPC’s military outreach director, the phrase “Military Friendly” is more than just a buzzword. The retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major has developed outreach programs that go beyond processing a veteran’s military benefits.

“To the student veteran, what they need is a smooth transition from combat to classroom,” says Eister. “Many of our students are coming to college just a month or two having served in the war zone. Some of these veterans are also dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Traumatic Brain Injury. For others, it’s the first time they’ve been to college, or it’s been a long time since they last were in college. They’re coming from a great deal of structure, 24-7, and suddenly, they are on a college campus and have no idea of how the process goes, like how to register for classes, or how to get their financial aid. We try and assist them proactively with various programs, rather than reactively.”

To that end, all five GPC campuses are staffed with Military Outreach VA Work-Study students who are also veterans. The distinctive Military Outreach resource booths are placed near the flow of student activity in all student centers, with the main office for the program housed on the GPC Clarkston Campus.

Recently, Eister launched the program entitled MVP (Mentoring Veterans Program), which pairs faculty or staff as a mentor with a veteran. The program seeks to give an even more personal touch to veteran services at the college.
“We have more than 60 faculty and staff volunteer to do this with very little prompting,” says Eister. “They are excited to be able to link up with a student veteran and help them in any way they can.”

One of those mentors is Susan Fitzgerald, who works as the administrative assistant to the dean of academic affairs on GPC’s Dunwoody Campus. She is the mentor to a young Marine, who has served several tours in the Middle East, post 9-11.

“I have a familiarity with what is required and needed in today’s military, and I understand and respect that,” Fitzgerald says. “I do know that military members are coming from such a unified group with a mission and a cause that links them together so strongly … that it can be challenging to sometimes make the transition to an environment that is not so restrictive; that is open and full of options.”
Fitzgerald says her role is to reach out to her mentee. “I’m here to make sure that if he has any questions or concerns, I’m another person he can go to for assistance. He has my cell number; he can stop by whenever he’s on campus. I am another friendly face in addition to our counselors and advisors at the college.”

In addition to the mentoring program, Eister launched the Green Zone program this past spring. Modeled after a similar program at Virginia Commonwealth University, and funded through a grant from the Aurora Foundation, the Green Zone sticker or poster on an office door represents specific online training completed by a faculty or staff member to help assist veterans. “If a veteran sees a “Green Zone” sticker on an office door, that means that the faculty or staff member has been trained to assist veterans or help point them in the right direction,” Eister says.

Georgia Perimeter College also is part of Soldiers2Scholars, a University System of Georgia program that combines the efforts of numerous USG military outreach programs. “We are working on ways to improve policies and practices throughout the whole University System of Georgia,“ Eister says.

For information about GPC’s Military Outreach program, as well as the many scholarships available to veteran students, call 678-891-3025 or go to www.gpc.edu.