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Veterans march in a parade

USF earns Collegiate Purple Star Campus designation for its support of military families

By Matt Cimitile, University Communications and Marketing

Known for years as one of the top universities in the nation for veterans, USF has now earned a state designation for its continued commitment to supporting military families.

The Collegiate Purple Star Campuses Program was established in 2023 by the state of Florida. It recognizes higher education institutions that provide critical support to military-connected students and families as they transition into higher education and sustained resources throughout their academic journey.

“This signifies a validation of the efforts and commitment of USF in supporting military families and ensuring their success in higher education,” said Wayne Taylor, director of the Office of Veteran Success. “This designation also acknowledges the efforts of OVS and VA Work Studies staff across all three campuses in addressing the specific needs and challenges faced by military-affiliated students, such as transitioning from military to civilian life, accessing educational benefits, navigating systemic barriers and connecting with campus life.” 

To receive this designation, colleges and universities need to designate a staff member as a military liaison, have a student-led program that assists the transition into the institution, offer staff members professional development training opportunities to better serve military students and provide easily accessible web resources and priority course registration for this student population.

USF is home to nearly 1,400 student veterans, one of the largest populations for a state university in Florida. There are also more than 5,300 enrolled students who are dependents of a veteran or someone in the military, bringing USF’s overall military-connected population to 6,725 individuals. 

To ensure the success of this student population, OVS utilizes an inclusive approach that recognizes military-connected students’ viewpoints and incorporates them into everyday campus life. The approach seeks to create authentic relationships, growth opportunities and a personal touch that mirrors the camaraderie veterans experience during service.

“OVS on each of our campuses strives to make sure our military-connected students are successful during their academic journey and with the next chapter of their lives, whether that is continuing education or employment,” said Carlos Moreira, director of Campus Engagement for Veteran Success and Alumni Affairs at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

Among newly proposed investments in USF included in the 2024-25 state budget, pending approval by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is $10 million to enhance facilities and services offered to student veterans and military families.

“For the military-connected community, finding camaraderie and purpose after leaving service is huge,” said Todd Post, assistant director of OVS on the St. Petersburg campus. “We provide that, but additional resources would allow us to create a greater sense of belonging and a more successful transition into higher education for those who have and continue to serve.”

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