July 25, 2017  

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CATCHING UP WITH MICHAEL MCGEE

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Michael A. McGee

Michael A. McGee is the Senior Veteran Affairs Certification Official for the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families at The University of Southern Mississippi. Before joining Southern Miss, McGee committed more than 23 years of active duty to the United States Army as a Sergeant First Class upon retirement. Recently, he was elected president of the Veterans Affairs Administrators of Mississippi (VAAMS), a statewide organization consisting of college and universities dedicated to improving services to student-veterans, service members and their families. He recently took time to reflect on his professional career and outside interests.

Q: What is your hometown and educational background?

A: I was born and raised in Collins, Miss., and graduated with honors from Collins High School in 1983. Upon retiring from the Army with college credits from many schools, I attended Jones County Junior College and ultimately graduated from William Carey University with a B.A. in religion and a minor in psychology.

Q: How many years have you been with Southern Miss and what did you do prior to joining the University?

A: I was hired by Southern Miss in August of 2014. Prior to working at Southern Miss and after retiring from the Army, I was employed by two military contractors as a recruiter for the U.S. Army. Prior to retiring from the Army in 2006, I was called to pastor at First Baptist Church of Stringer, Miss. I am still the pastor of First Baptist Church of Stringer.

Q: Explain your role as Senior Veterans Affairs Certification Official in the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families. What does your job entail?

A: Primarily, my job is to accurately report to the Regional Veterans Affairs Education Office the enrollment status of our veteran and veteran-related students. Additionally, anything that can be legally done to assist our veterans, service members and their families in their pursuit for higher education at Southern Miss is considered within my purview. We also use networking to connect the students with resources, and equip them with the tools to be successful in school and beyond.

Q: How do you think your experience in the Army has helped prepare you for your current role as Senior Veteran Affairs Certification Official? 

A: My experience in the Army engendered in me a love and appreciation for all veterans and service members. I spent the majority of my career taking care of soldiers and ensuring their well-being, so this job has been an extension of my various leadership roles. Now, I also get to assist their family members as they pursue their education.

Q: It’s been said that you are well-known across the University and throughout Mississippi as a caring mentor of military students. How do you think you earned this reputation, and what drives you to take a keen interest in these students?

A: I try to present a friendly face and to have a keen ear to hear what’s going on behind the “standard answers.” The people I meet should know I genuinely care about their concerns because I do genuinely care for them.

Q: You were recently named president of Veterans Affairs Administrators of Mississippi (VAAMS). How do you feel about being selected to serve in this position, and what are you looking forward to in regard to moving this organization forward?

A: Truly, it is not a position of prestige, but rather, it is a position of service. I have only served as a Veterans Affairs administrator for three years, but I see the challenge many of us face in the performance of our daily duties. As president, I want to ensure all VA administrators who desire training are afforded the opportunity for training at least once each year, and I have a few ideas of how we might be able to make it happen.

Q: What has been your favorite aspect of working in a University environment?

A: I am privileged to work in an environment where every problem has an answer. Networking inside and outside the University to be able to access the right resource, person or system in order to provide the right answer is my favorite aspect of working at Southern Miss.

Q: What has been your proudest accomplishment while working at the University, and why?

A: Our Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families is less than three years old, but we have been ranked 15th nationally by Military Times’s “Best for Vets.” We did not receive that accolade because of the amount of advertising dollars we spent. We received that honor because we serve our veterans, servicer members and families.

Q: You served more than 23 years of active duty for the U.S. Army. How many different countries or cities have you lived in, and which one was your favorite location and why? 

A: I was privileged to serve in seven states and two overseas assignments (not including Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as training in 23 other states). I believe my time in Little Rock, Ark., is my favorite because I am still extremely close to several people I met while we were there.  Germany was fun; Panama was awesome; Las Vegas was surprisingly enjoyable; and Fort Campbell, Ky., was where I “grew up” in the Army, but I treasure the long lasting friendship of my Little Rock family.

Q: If you weren’t employed in your current job, what else might you be doing and why?

A: If I was not employed at Southern Miss, I would concentrate more time and energy on church and community-related matters and continue to advocate for our veterans.

Q: What do you like to do during your spare time when you’re not working?

A:  I love to travel, and I have started doing more fishing; it is really an addictive habit.

Q: What little known fact would people find surprising about you?

A:  I’m an open book with very few, if any, surprises.

Q: What is the best advice you ever received and from whom?

A: I have a cousin, Isaac Hawthorn, who simply asked me to quit smoking for my health – and that impacted me greatly.

Q: What advice would you give to others?

A: While living passionately for a worthy cause, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18 KJV)