Robert Browning is donning a different uniform Monday night.
He will be wearing a suit and tie instead of the fatigues he wore for four years as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Browning, a junior studying business, will be attending the annual Veterans and Military Families Recruiting Night in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Ballroom on Monday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The event serves as one example of the many resources veterans are using to network on campus.
"It can only be a positive thing," said Browning. "I want to take advantage of every opportunity I have."
Browning will seek to connect with representatives from companies in the consulting and financial sectors, many of which will be present at Monday's event. In past years, the annual recruiting night hosted a roster of employers that included names like IBM, Amazon, The Boeing Company, Booz Allen Hamilton, PayPal and the FBI, among others.
Last year, 465 people registered and 90 employer representatives attended from various companies ranging from Fortune 100s to nonprofits and government agencies, according to the Career Center.
USC offers many resources and services to encourage networking among the growing student veteran population which, according to VRC certification officer Poly Chuong, has more than quadrupled since 2008. The USC Veterans Association, the Marshall Military Veterans Association, the Alumni Veterans Network and the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military are just some of the support services offered.
The Veterans Resource Center, VRC for short, is a particularly important space for students to network.
"It's cool because there are always other vets here," Browning of the VRC said. "So it's easier to connect with them. Not even to study or anything, but sometimes just to chill out. It brings back that old camaraderie that you don't get out here with the rest of the student population."
The VRC, located in Suite 330 in Tutor Hall, provides support in terms of educational and scholarship benefits as well. USC adopted the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program in 2011 to supplement GI Bill recipients sponsored by the federal government. By 2015 the program expanded to include an unlimited number of awards that help students cover up to one hundred percent of tuition and mandatory fees, according to Chuong.
"Not a lot of schools participate in Yellow Ribbon to the degree that we do," Chuong said. "So I would encourage a lot of military-connected students who are discouraged from applying here because of the sticker price of the cost of attendance to overlook that and apply anyway."
Although Yellow Ribbon funding is available for all undergraduate programs at USC, not all graduate schools participate. Among the largest graduate school participants are the Viterbi School of Engineering and the Marshall School of Business. Chuong said he is working on inviting the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the School of Cinematic Arts, the Roski School of Art and Design and the School of Architecture to participate.
Veteran enrollment increased from 250 students in 2008 to roughly 1,300 students this year since the post-9/11 GI Bill was introduced, Chuong said. The VRC is working to support its growing student base by providing the financial and recruiting assistance they need.
Leora Hodes, a Military and Affairs Career Counselor at UCLA and a graduate student at USC, holds informal career training sessions at the Veterans Resource Center twice a week. She stressed the importance of networking for veteran students.
"[I talk] to students about who to talk to and how to talk to them," Hodes said. "Informational interviews are one of my big sellers because I think it's so important, so I always try to get folks to do those."
Students will have an opportunity to translate what they have learned from Hodes and others in the VRC on Monday. Browning says he feels well-supported going into the recruiting event.
"Everyone's pretty helpful and giving out tips on what classes to take, where to go, how to interview and who to talk to…It's a really nice, easy, fluid network."