John D. Mikelson, Advising Military Students & Dependents Interest Group Member
Today record numbers of military service veterans are enrolling in colleges and universities as they return from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Across the U.S., Spring 2010 veteran enrollment was up from Fall 2009; 2010-11 enrollments will likely be higher. As veterans transition from a military to collegiate setting, both veterans and the campus communities must adjust to the change and the differing value systems held within the military and academic communities.
Advisors should recognize that veterans turned students are culturally different from their peers. A campus Veterans Center is a refuge for the veteran student to study or relax with people with similar experiences and backgrounds. Veteran students speak a common language not understood by the majority of their classmates. They hold different social norms and mores based upon their military training and life style.
A Veterans Center provides a welcoming and permanent setting where veterans can be nurtured and grow as they acclimate to a campus. Centers have become a focal point for cultural enrichment, academic development, and personal growth. A campus Veterans Center provides an atmosphere that allows students, faculty, and staff to interact within the academic community and helps veterans establish cultural ties and exchange knowledge.
The major purpose of a Veterans Center is to meet the needs of the veteran student through a variety of programs and services, including a wide array of diverse cultural, academic, and personal support services that facilitate their growth, success, and adjustment within the academy. Programs and services at the Centers may include:
- Liaison to campus and community organizations and services
- Workshops, forums, and discussion groups
- Study and meeting spaces
- Library and other resource materials
- Employment listings
- Film series, TV lounge, and games
- Party and social areas
- Fully-equipped kitchen
- Wheelchair accessible facilities
A campus Veterans Support Team, which includes academic advisors, should be established on each campus. Possible goals for the Veterans Support Team include:
- Integrate the role of recruitment and enrollment of veteran students into long term enrollment management plans. The Post 9/11 GI Bill means that veterans are here to stay.
- Identify campus resources that can help these students make successful transitions, e.g., health, disabilities support, retention, learning support. Nearly 40 percent of veterans of the War on Terror have service connected disabilities.
- Educate faculty, staff, and the academic community on the advantages and opportunities veterans bring to the campus environment.
- Provide welcoming and inclusive environments for the veterans and their families that are consistent with the institutional goals. Questions that need to be answered include:
- Do veterans have a voice with campus administration?
- Is a veterans’ group organized? Is the group part of a state, regional, or national network?
- Has a gathering place for veterans been created?
- Are there several individuals on campus who can serve as institutional points of contact for veterans and veteran concerns?
- Establish partnerships with campus departments, external organizations, and communities.
Across the United States, several initiatives are currently under discussion within the student veteran community. Below is a list of resources I believe will be valuable to my colleagues who advise student veterans.
Some of the featured presentations from February’s Council of Colleges and Military Educators (CCME) 2010 Symposium can be found at www.ccmeonline.org/nashville10.aspx. Over 1,000 participants gathered at the CCME Symposium to discuss various military education issues including the Post 9/11 GI Bill, distance learning, recruiting, Web-based libraries, evaluating nontraditional credits, and quality educational opportunities for service members and their families.
From Soldier to Student records best practices that have led to veterans’ success, including creation of veterans’ offices, streamlining the admissions and registration processes, expanding counseling center capacity, establishing mentor programs, and training faculty and staff.
Advisors who work with military students can learn more about the complexities and successes of this student group by joining NACADA's Advising Military Students and Dependents Interest Group and its listserv, where supportive ideas are exchanged to better serve this population.
I look forward to discussing veterans’ affairs information with my colleagues at the NACADA Annual Conference in Orlando!
John D. Mikelson
University of Iowa Veterans Center
Cite this article using APA style as: Mikelson, J. (2010, September). Information for advisors who work with veterans. Academic Advising Today, 33(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]