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Nicole Lovald, Capella University

As more and more Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines return home from war, there is a greater need than ever for educational institutions to provide these students with resources and support. Academic advisors are in an ideal position to both advocate for this student group and to provide the support services these students need to transition to academia, persist through their programs, and reach their graduation goals.

Mireles (2007), in a recent Newsweek article, addressed the difficulties combat veterans face when they return to their campuses following a deployment. Mireles interviewed service members who expressed feelings of isolation, being overwhelmed by administrative processes, and having a difficult time readjusting to what life was like pre-deployment and pre-war. Advisors can help create needed campus support services for these students as they attempt to continue their education in the face of deployments and as they transition home.

Additionally, advisors can provide needed support for students who want to continue their educations while deployed. Online institutions and traditional “brick and mortar” institutions are starting to address the challenge of providing educational opportunities to deployed soldiers through online course options. Providing advising assistance to students regardless of physical location is a new challenge for many institutions. As discussed at the 2007 Region 6 NACADA Conference, many campuses are engaging in a dialogue about the programs and services that must be implemented if we are to meet the needs of students in the military.

What can advisors do to assist service members with their needs?

Advisors understand the importance of cultural competency and recognizing the unique needs of students. As we begin working with our service members and veterans, we find that the military has a unique culture which is very different than the civilian sector. Recognizing these differences helps advisors connect with their military advisees and shows that we are invested in these individuals as students. Something as simple as understanding military acronyms e.g., E2 (private), may help break down barriers and show the student that we are attempting to understand their unique differences and needs.

Understanding military culture is just the beginning; it is important that we delve further and look at the specific challenges service members may face due to their commitment to the military. Some of the more apparent challenges could be due to deployments, temporary missions (TDY), and frequent moves (PCS). But it also is important that we look at the impact missions have on them emotionally, physically, and psychologically as they return to institutions and reintegrate into academic programs.

When working with deployed students, we should understand that they may be faced with technological difficulties, among other hindrances, that may necessitate greater flexibility from faculty and the institution. It is important that we work closely with these students to understand their distinct needs so that we can provide the assistance needed so they can focus on their studies and be successful in their courses.

Serve as an advocate

When advisors understand the unique needs of their military students, they can serve as advocates and institutional change agents to help ensure that these students receive the needed services, resources and accommodations. Advisors should review institutional policies and procedures to determine if these policies must be revisited or revised. Administrators may not be aware of the 2003 Higher Education Relief Opportunities Act (HEROES ACT) that protects service members from financial and academic hardships when they are activated in support of a war, national disaster, or emergency. Advisors can serve as advocates to affect policy and procedural changes to benefit students when institutions lack accommodation policies that support this legislation.

Advisors should become aware of the resources available to assist students with Veterans and other military benefits. Service members may rely on military benefits to fund their education; advisors can help these students know which benefits they may qualify for, how they can access the benefits, and what institutional policies are in place regarding these benefits. Service members may also qualify for state and local veterans assistance benefits. Accessing these programs can be difficult and frustrate service members who may already feel overwhelmed by their readjustment to college. Iinstitutions that ease administrative burdens and provide financial counseling can be both encouraging to students and beneficial for the college in terms of re-enrollment and persistence.

Conclusion

Academic advisors interested in implementing additional advising and support services at their institutions have a variety of resources available to assist them. The Web sites listed below provide information on military education, benefits, and legislation that can help advisors identify services military students need. Advisors can help students who are trying to balance their military commitments or separations from the military with their desire to pursue higher education. It is imperative that we support these students and their aspirations so that they can achieve their potential and reach their ultimate graduation goals.

Nicole Lovald
Armed Forces Support
Capella University
Nicole.lovald@capella.edu

Resources

Service members Opportunity Colleges (SOC): http://www.soc.aascu.org/

Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Educational Support (DANTES):http://www.dantes.doded.mil/

American Council on Education (ACE): Military Programshttp://www.acenet.edu/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Military_Programs&Template=/

HEROES Act of 2003: http://www.finaid.org/military/heroes.phtml

NACADA Advising Military Students & Dependents Potential Interest Group

GI Bill Web site http://www.gibill.va.gov/

National Guard Benefits https://minuteman.ngb.army.mil/benefits/

Military.com http://www.military.com/

National Association of Veterans' Program Administrators www.navpa.org

References

Higher Education Relief Opportunities Act, 20 U.S.C. 1070(2003).

Mireles, Matt (2007, April 14). Combat Veterans Confront Life on Campus. Retrieved on June 13, 2007 from http://www.msnbc.com/id/18059684/site/newsweek/page/0/print/1/displaymode/1098

Cite this article using APA style as: Lovald, N. (2007, September). Providing support to service members and veterans through advising services. Academic Advising Today, 30(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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