At Miami University’s graduation ceremonies this year, new cords may be visible around the necks of a few students.
The three cords – one red, one white and one blue – will denote student veterans or military-affiliated students. Military-affiliated students can be students involved in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) or who may be attending college on a family member’s G.I. Bill.
Students received their cords at the inaugural Green Zone Grads ceremony held at Miami’s Hamilton Regional Campus on April 24.
“We wanted to start a practice or precedent of having a unique celebration for veteran and military-affiliated students who were graduating,” said Ed Syron, regional coordinator of Veterans Services.
Syron, who spent 21 years in the United States Air Force and eventually ended up at Miami after coming out of retirement, said Veterans Services aims to provide a supportive environment for all veteran and military-affiliated students as they transition from military or the private sector to college and then on to their career.
Coordinators provide guidance and support on the completion of G.I. Bill applications, advice on enrollment and admissions, academic support and counseling services.
After her first semester at Miami, senior inclusive special education major Alexis Vega decided to enlist in the Army Reserves and attended basic training that summer. Due to her involvement in ROTC, she will be commissioned as an officer upon graduation. The two ceremonies will take place the same day.
Vega participated in the Green Zone Grads ceremony and said that the chance to receive recognition from the university for her military involvement was a big deal for her and her family, especially since she is a first-generation college student.
“There were a lot of families there, and it's really nice to see other Miami students who are also veterans or military-affiliated, because I feel like on the main campus, you don't really see the military outside the ROTC programs,” Vega said.
Junior small business management major Jonathon Godby already spent six years in the United States Navy from 2008-2014 and later worked as a firefighter before deciding to attend Miami.
Although not a traditional student, Godby said his time at Miami has gone well, mostly due to the support from Veterans Services.
“There's definitely a transition period of either being a working adult or a veteran to going on and becoming a student again,” Godby said. “But once that initial shock is over, then it's smooth sailing.”
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Godby also attended the Green Zone Grads ceremony and said it was made even better by the appearance of Cathy Bishop-Clark, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Applied Sciences.
“For the dean to come in on a Saturday and make an appearance and talk, all the veterans appreciate that,” Godby said. “It says to all of them, ‘Hey, the university supports us, appreciates our service.’ So we're grateful for that.”
Syron said for students involved in the military, the ceremonial aspect of receiving their cords is especially significant.
“Symbolically, having the dean recognize the graduating student would be the same to that military person [as] when they were on active duty and their commander acknowledged an achievement,” Syron said.
Both Vega and Godby said they were thankful for Syron, who spearheaded the event and constantly works to make sure student veterans and military-affiliated students have the resources they need.
Vega is excited to wear her red, white and blue cords at graduation, because it’s symbolic of not only her time in the military, but also the impact it’s had on her education.
“It's something to be proud of, like, ‘Yes, I'm a military-affiliated student or yes, I'm a veteran,’” Vega said. “And I also think that also contributes to your education, being a veteran or being military affiliated, because you're still learning things in the military. And a lot of things that I've learned in the military, I was able to bring into the classroom, especially in education because you learn so much and you get so many values instilled in you.”
After graduation, Vega plans to work at Northwest High School in Cincinnati as a full-time special education teacher, while working for the reserves one weekend a month and during the summer for training.
But for now, Vega is eager to graduate and begin her life. She’s also grateful for the support she received from Veterans Services, with the Green Zone Grads ceremony a prime example of their dedication.
“They really came forth and said, ‘We want to continue to keep this connection. We want to continue to grow and build and give these resources,’” Vega said. ‘They're really just there for you and … also show students on the campus like, ‘Oh, look at this strong military presence here. They're appreciated, they're valued.’ And I think that's great to see.”