When our grandfathers returned home from World War II, they were greeted as heroes. They returned to a nation committed to helping them, a nation in which the majority of people not only understood the cost of war but also felt the sacrifices that these men made. Today’s veterans return to a country where few Americans are directly impacted by war and even fewer understand the challenges that these veterans face when returning home. One sector that is trying to understand these challenges is the education sector. With the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in August 2009 (a new education benefits program for servicemen and women), colleges and universities around the country have seen a large increase in their enrollment of military veterans.
Many of these colleges and universities understand that they play a vital role in helping veterans make the transition from military life to civilian life, a transition that can be very difficult on many levels. At AAU we, too, have seen an increase in our veteran enrollment as well as the benefits and challenges that come with that. In order to help veterans succeed as students, whether onsite or online, we must ask ourselves how we can best serve their needs. It is also important to remember that regardless of what opinions we may have, we need to recognize the bravery and sacrifices that these men and women have made and to understand that many of these veterans suffer from lasting side effects.
The Northern Illinois University faculty development staff had a chance to meet with a group of veteran students attending their university and to discuss the needs and challenges that they faced as students. Here is a list of some common veteran characteristics that were excerpted from that meeting as well as from other sources.
Who are they?
What symptoms of post-active duty stress might we see in the classroom?
On returning from active duty, some veterans experience high levels of stress while trying to adjust to both civilian and student life. This stress affects many areas of their lives including their performance as students. Although most veterans suffer from some type of post-active duty stress, the veterans who are more likely to act out or isolate themselves are veterans who were on front line combat or had multiple deployments, veterans who lack a support system, and medics. According to the Student Veterans of America, some common stress symptoms that we may see in our veteran students are:
Depression, anger/irritability/rage, problems with authority, low tolerance for stress, alienation, isolation, anxiety, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, poor concentration, negative
What can we do to help ease their transition to life in the classroom?
The faculty development staff at Northern Illinois University compiled an excellent list of strategies for teachers to use both in and out of the classroom to help meet their veteran students’ needs and to make their transition as smooth as possible.
If you would like to view an excellent program on one military platoon’s members and their attempts to adjust to civilian life, Frontline aired a program called “The Wounded Platoon” on May 18, 2010. Click here to view through the PBS website.
For more information on veterans returning to school, go to the Student Veterans of America website.
Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center of Northern Illinois University (2010). Veterans in the Classroom. Retrieved May 27, 2010 from http://www.niu.edu/spectrum/2010/spring/veterans.shtml
Student Veterans of America (n.d.) Military to College Guide. Retrieved May 27, 2010 from http://www.niu.edu/spectrum/2010/spring/veterans.shtml
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (n.d.) Adjusting to University Life: Veterans: Transforming from Soldier to Student. Retrieved May 26, 2010 from http://www.ipfw.edu/counseling/help/adjusting.shtml
Thomas, Annie. (2009). Life after duty: student veterans at the ‘U.’ Retrieved May 26, 2010 from http://www.michigandaily.com