University receives gold status for military friendliness

Military Friendly, a national organization which ranks colleges on their veteran accommodations, ranked UNA the No. 1 public school in the country with fewer than 10,000 students.

“I treat (the veterans) like I’m going to remember their name when they come in,” said UNA’s veterans affairs specialist Michelle Dailey.

This is the first year UNA made the list of Military Friendly schools.

The organization ranks schools on six categories: academic policies and compliance, admissions and orientation, culture and commitment, financial aid and assistance, graduation and career, and military student support and retention, according to the Military Friendly website.

Bret Jennings, executive director of Student Affairs for auxiliary programs said UNA prioritizes veterans because “it’s the right thing to do.”

“The university as a whole understands the needs of our military students,” Jennings said. “There is a home for them here at (UNA)”

Dailey, who is also a Navy veteran, oversees the Military and Veteran Service Center and credits its recent addition to campus as a reason for the school’s ranking.

The MVSC houses resources for veterans, including a professional dress closet, a textbook exchange program and a computer lab.

“It’s a place where you can come together and relieve your stress,” Dailey said. “We let them know that there are options here and things that we can do for them.”

Jennings said the MVSC is a place where veterans can come to feel like part of UNA’s military family.

“Military backgrounds as a whole are family-oriented,” he said. “The military family sticks together and this gives them an opportunity and a place where they can be around like-minded students.”

The MVSC also keeps a pantry of donated food for veteran students.

“They can always find a meal or they can find somebody to assist them,” Jennings said.

Jennings said UNA prioritizes the needs of veterans just like it does the needs of every other student group.

Junior veteran Darrien White said he has benefitted from the military friendliness of UNA.

“Every time I come in the MVSC, I see friendly faces,” he said. “We have snacks, we have resources for our education and Ms. Dailey is the best.”

Jennings said the ranking has contributed to veterans affairs’ recent inclusion in campus recruiting.

“We’re being included in a lot of the admissions talks (and) in registrar talks,” Jennings said. “In (Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration) and preview days, we’re being included, whereas before we weren’t.”

Dailey currently sees over 300 veterans, dependents, active duty and reserve members who are using their G.I. Bill for tuition. She said there are more veterans on campus, but not everyone knows about the veterans resources and how to take advantage of them.

“If any of our veterans aren’t being counted in that number, we’d love for them to come see us,” Jennings said.

Senior Ashley Turnage said she is proud of UNA for their high rank.

“It’s really great to feel like a priority because of my service,” she said.