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Higher Education and Mental Health Symposium: “Beyond GI Joe: The Contemporary College Student Veteran”

by on April 10, 2013

Lauren Williams, Region II Veterans KC Chair

As the Director of Military and Veteran Services at Marywood University in Scranton, PA I’m tasked with ensuring our student veterans have a successful transition to our campus. I advocate for many of them on a range of issues on a daily basis. Whether it’s a problem with a VA payment for tuition and fees or an issue with a course or faculty member it is my job to ensure it gets handled properly and effectively so that the veteran can continue their education with little to no interruptions. In a perfect world, where higher education professionals are fully aware of the issues that accompany the student veteran population my job would essentially be a piece of cake; however, we live in a society where we specialize in one area and though we may know that area extremely well, it sometimes makes for a student affairs professional with “tunnel vision.” I’ve taken it upon myself to design a program to educate the entire campus community. It’s not enough to just have the one person on campus that serves the student veteran it’s important to employ a community that understands or at least has a basic understanding of the unique needs of this growing population. My passion is education, specifically educating the community both here at Marywood and across the country on the military and veteran student. So I guess one could say maybe I too have “tunnel vision,” but my tunnel vision has the passion and drive to make a difference in higher education and I hope that this passion rubs off on others. Higher education is in the business of customer service. I sometimes think as a profession we forget that our job is to ensure the success of others!

I’ve included some information on Beyond GI Joe below. Take a look and register if you think this is something you can benefit from. Thank you Region II for allowing me the opportunity to get the word out on our program!

Here is the link to the brochure:

With the influx of veterans into higher education and the community at large, it is important for professionals to have an understanding of the military community and culture. Many civilians are unaware of the challenges facing our servicemembers as the separate from service and embarake into the next phase of their lives, whether that be through post-secondary education or straight into the workforce. Beyond GI Joe will offer an intensive and interactive professional development experience to enhance the attendee’s understanding of today’s veteran and strengthen their ability to better serve this growing population. The program is relevant across various professions, with a special focus on higher education professionals and mental health professionals.

Participants will be given various opportunities to engage with the military community. They will meet with guest experts on the GI Bill and its corresponding benefits. Participants will engage in a group discussion led by military spouses and family members focused on educating the participants on the important position that family plays in the servicemember’s success. Finally, participants will explore the “veteran experience” on college and university campuses and examine issues veterans face when assimilating back into civilian life and into the classroom. As student affairs professional is it important for us to continuously educate ourselves on special populations enrolling at our institutions.

This is the second time we are running Beyond GI Joe at Marywood University. Last year we had the opportunity to educate many individuals about a number of topics central to student veteran success. It is our hope to do the same thing with the program this year.

By the end of this course participants will:

  • Value the importance of creating relationships with student veterans on campus and in the community.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the mental health needs of today’s service-members, veterans and their family members.
  • Strengthen their empathetic understanding of the veteran experience and strengthen their investment in veteran success within higher education and beyond.
  • Be able to recognize and admit any personal bias they may have toward this group.
  • Become more aware of the differences that exist between the traditional college student and the student veteran.
  • Integrate learning about this population into professional practice.
  • Be able to plan and successfully execute a program/event tying in knowledge gained throughout the course.

The symposium is a collaboration by the Marywood University Office of Military and Veteran Services and The School of Social Work and Administrative Studies. It will take place at Marywood University in Scranton, PA May 3rd-4th, 2013. This information will be distributed to colleges/universities nationwide, as well as mental health professionals that serve the veteran population in our area. 10 CEU’s will be provided for Social Workers, and 10 ACT 48 hours provided for educators. There will be a number of shared sessions along with concurrent sessions which will cover topics specific to higher education professionals and mental health professionals. Please advise if you should have any questions or concerns. Please forward this information to anyone that might find this seminar of interest to their profession.

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