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CCU Atheneum: CCU Athletics regularly hosts military appreciation events at games, including this baseball game during the 2018 season.
CCU Athletics regularly hosts military appreciation events at games, including this baseball game during the 2018 season.

CCU saluted for dedication to supporting veterans with Bronze distinction

by Melanie Smith
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Honoring the armed forces and veteran community has always been a cornerstone of Coastal Carolina University. With a history of being an accommodating institution for veterans and military-affiliated students, the resources and sense of community has only grown with time.

This year, CCU earned a Bronze distinction rating as a Military Friendly School from VIQTORY, a veteran-owned communication and marketing firm that specializes in ranking schools and businesses based off their commitment to veteran and military personnel.

The Bronze ranking indicates an exceptional military and veteran program that stands out among other universities. The award itself is crafted to honor a school’s unwavering dedication to veterans and military-affiliated students, according to the criteria outlined by VIQTORYMedia. There are only three other four-year higher education entities in the state that share the same distinction.

CCU has been designated a Military Friendly School consistently since 2011, having crafted a special and sustainable community on campus full of opportunity for active duty, reserve and guard service members, veterans and military spouses.

“The latest distinction is an acknowledgement of Coastal Carolina University’s growing reputation as an institution that cares about our military and our veterans,” said President David A. DeCenzo.

Last year, CCU was named to the 2018 list of Most Affordable Military-Friendly Online Colleges, one of 60 universities nationally and the only South Carolina institution. In 2017, CCU was designated a Purple Heart University by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and in 2016, CCU became the only university in the state to install a permanent Missing Man Chair of Honor at one of its facilities. The chair is located in Spring Brooks Stadium.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, more than 430,000 veterans live in the state, making up more than 7 percent of the state’s population. As enrollment increases, so does the military representation at CCU.

Growing advocacy

In 2015, CCU recognized a need on campus for advocacy and resources for the growing veteran and veteran family member population on campus. This led to the creation of the Office of Veteran Services, a one-stop shop for military-affiliated students. This department assists veterans with transitioning from the military to the classroom to the workforce. The office also educates faculty and staff on veterans issues and provides space for military-affiliated students.

As more veterans attend CCU, Gregory Nance sees a need for more assistance. Nance oversees the Office of Veteran Services and serves as the faculty adviser to the Coastal Carolina chapter of the Student Veterans of America (SVA).

Most recently, he assembled the Veterans Services Advisory Committee after meeting with the Coastal Educational Foundation and the Office for Philanthropy and realizing that more can be done to accommodate Chanticleer service members, veterans and their dependents.

“Our goal is to raise awareness of military-affiliated students in our community, and to seek advice and resources from campus and community partners,” Nance said. “The mission is to inform the leadership in the local community and our leadership at CCU of the value of having this student population.”

The committee works in conjunction with the Office of Veterans Services, projecting the resources the office provides while also making it as easy as possible for students and their parents to have their needs met.

“Military-affiliated students are already navigating two difference bureaucracies, higher education and the Department of Veterans Affairs, so having this hub can streamline these services and let students concentrate on their academics and social life on campus and in the community,” Nance said.

This spring, the committee will be planning the second “CCU Veterans Games” competition, which consists of several physical events. Donations raised go toward the SVA. The committee is also working with the Jackson Scholars program to co-host a panel discussion on military core values.

“It is great to see that across all departments at CCU, we set the foundation for these students to succeed,” Nance said. “I would like our faculty and staff to feel free to reach out to the Office of Veterans Services if they have any questions on how to assist with a military affiliated student.”

Translation of skills

The E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration is now home to the newly formed Boeing Skills to Lead – Veterans Career Transition Program. Boeing of South Carolina awarded a $80,000 grant to jumpstart this program with hopes to ease the transition for military students from college to employment.

“We are very thankful for this grant and excited to partner with Boeing to assist the many veterans and military families in our region,” said Barbara Ritter, dean of the Wall College of Business and vice president for executive development and career services. “This grant allows us to connect the experts in the Wall College of Business with veterans in our area to make a significant impact on their working lives.”

The career transition program includes a two-hour orientation, five 1.5-hour development modules, and two hours of one-on-one coaching. Students participating will learn about techniques to success as a leader, practice the techniques through case studies and role play, and discuss how to apply learned skills to the civilian workplace. Modules include: understanding leadership, understanding yourself; using power and influence; negotiating; performance management; and working in teams.

The program is individualized, meaning it is geared to each student specifically based off a detailed self-assessment of leadership strengths and weaknesses. Each participant establishes a personal development plan and receives personalized coaching. The goal is for veterans to grasp the bigger picture of how their skills can translate to a variety of settings.

“Boeing knows that veterans make us better,” said Ashley Holbrook, director of national strategy and engagement at Boeing. “That’s why we partner with innovated programs like Skills to Lead with Coastal Carolina University to help veterans and their families transition from military life to the civilian workforce.”

Participants will be recruited through the Office of Veteran Services. Retired military enrolled at CCU are also eligible, as well as spouses of active military service members or veterans.

Other organizations plan to partner with CCU to recruit veterans from the region, including the CCU Veterans Alumni Association, the Horry-Georgetown Technical College Veterans Resource Center, the Myrtle Beach Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce Development, Horry County Veterans Affair Office, and American Legion Post 196 in Myrtle Beach.

Those who finish the program will be awarded a TEAL Belt in Leadership from CCU’s Executive Development Program. Graduates will have access to additional services through the University’s Career Services Center.

“The Boeing Skills to Lead – Veterans Career Transition Program will help veterans achieve better job placement and career development by helping them understand how to transfer their military skills to the civilian workforce,” said Nance.

Coastal offers additional services and programs for military personnel and veterans, including a U.S. Army ROTC program for students with 51 cadets, as well as the CresCom Bank Center for Military and Veteran Studies, which collects and preserves oral histories of veterans.


Director of Horry County Veterans Affairs joins CCU Military and Veterans Studies advisory board


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