KC Wednesday: What it really means to be a Military Supportive Campus…
This week’s post comes from the Veteran’s Knowledge Community and is written by Lauren A. Williams, Director, Office of Military & Veteran Services at Marywood University.
The term “Military Friendly” is probably one of the most overused phrases in higher education today. The only problem with calling ourselves Military Friendly is that the term itself is somewhat misleading. Being “friendly” could mean something completely different at each institution you visit. I prefer to use military supportive since we are in the business of providing not only an education to this new group of returning service men and woman but also provide support to ensure they are better prepared to transition from the military community to our campus community.
Every institution wants to say…HEY YOU! We are a military friendly school, so enroll here and let us provide you with a quality education…ohhhh, and while you’re at it give us your GI Bill benefits too! It might sound a little harsh, but it’s the truth. Every school wants to lower the discount rate and get full tuition and fees from each student. With the current economic conditions that is becoming more difficult each year; however, veterans who are 100% eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill provide the school with the most financial gain (along with International students of course).
My personal philosophy in regard to serving the student veteran community transcends the type of institution in which those individuals are enrolled. I believe that whether the student is taking courses in a Community College or at a 4 year private or public institution the ground work for serving this group essentially remains the same. The overarching goal of every college and university should be to provide the student veteran and their dependents with the easiest transition from military service to a student in the classroom. Obviously a larger institution will have various resources at their disposal to assist the student compared to a small Community College; however, many services require little to no cost to the school trying to implement them.
After many years of military conflict higher education has faced a wave of military service members requiring more consistent approaches to meet their unique educational needs (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 2010). The Council for Advancement of Standards in Higher Education recently released new standards for higher education when responding to military service members, veterans, and their families transitioning from military service (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 2010). As the number of student veterans enrolling in higher education continues to rise, the institution has a responsibility to allocate resources specific to the needs of this group. “Resources for military veterans in colleges across the country are lacking, according to a study released by researchers with the National Survey of Student Engagement” (Ingles, 2010). Veterans require an extensive support system both inside and outside the classroom. Blumke (2009) discussed the various types of barriers that student veterans face when transitioning into college life. Social, administrative, and psychological barriers confront this student group with issues that the traditional college student may never have had to consider (Blumke, 2009). In order to implement programs that meet the unique needs of this group, student affairs professionals must continue to educate themselves on this student population both now and well into the future.
Veteran students come to college with a different outlook on life from the traditional undergraduate student causing a barrier for these two groups to relate to one another (Hadley, 2010). Most college freshmen are 18 years old and entering college fresh out of high school. When student veterans arrive at the institution it is usually a number of years since they graduated, most have families, and many have had life altering experiences on the battlefield. The creation of learning communities and/or a Peer 2 Peer Mentorship Program for student veterans is a way in which this problem could be alleviated (Hadley, 2010). It allows the student veteran the opportunity to interact with other students that may have shared some of the same experiences, but also understands the military community. Student Veterans appreciate the opportunity to take part in community service. In most instances it allows the veteran to feel as though they are giving back to the community which evokes similar emotions to when the veteran served. The military is a unique culture that revolves around the idea of camaraderie. Allowing these students to maintain some of the characteristics that were so much a part of their lives will assist with their success in the classroom.
A few quick and simple examples to make your institution more military supportive:
1.) On your enrollment application don’t just ask if they are a Veteran; rather, ask if the individual has ever been affiliated with the US Military and in what capacity. (active, veteran, reserve/national guard, spouse, or dependent)
2.) Ensure students are aware of the name and location of the VA Certifying Official. It also helps if this person has ties to the military community, because if no office of veteran services exists then they will be the individual on campus that interacts with the student veteran community the most.
3.) Create a Veteran Club. Allow all students to participate in order to bridge the gap between traditional age students and the student veteran population.
4.) If your institution does not have a counseling center or is not equipped to provide counseling for military-related PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or reintegration issues of veterans, reach out to your local VetCenter and create a partnership to allow staff on campus to provide FREE counseling services to combat veterans.
5.) If none of the examples above are doable on your campus contact your student veterans and ask them what they want changed on your campus. Create a Task Force and get involved! Your support is sometimes that catalyst needed to spark a campus-wide initiative!
Blumke, D. (2009, September 4). Overcoming obstacles. Military Times Edge. Retrieved from http://www.militarytimesedge.com/education/veteran-campus- life/ed_blumke_obstacles_090309/?sms_ss=email&at_xt=4cc49ddd4e63c1d7,0
Hadley, C. (2010, February 11). Feeling like you fit it. Military Times Edge. Retrieved from http://www.militarytimesedge.com/education/veteran-campus-life/ed_blumke_obstacles_090309/?sms_ss=email&at_xt=4cc49ddd4e63c1d7,0