“Thank you for your service.” This is something my husband has heard many times based on his active duty service in the United States Air Force. He was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base and worked in the Medical Group in Las Vegas, Nevada before becoming a member of the Air Force Reserve and retiring with a Captain’s rank. Living the military lifestyle involves last minute schedule changes, deployments, base assignment re-location and a myriad of regulations and risk factors. But the benefits can include travel, education, scholarships and the opportunity to work with a dedicated group of men and women willing to sacrifice their lives for our country.
Some of my students have also served active duty in the military and I am seeing more of them register in online courses. According to Alison Lighthall in “Ten Things You Should Know about Today’s Student Veteran,” she explains:
Most of our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors joined the military before their 21st birthday, and it’s often the only job they’ve ever held. While it’s true they’ve received extensive training during their years of service, it’s often fairly narrow in scope and not immediately translatable to civilian employment. The answer for a record number of new veterans is higher education, for several reasons. Many joined the military with the ultimate goal of college, and the two G.I. Bills can help them afford an education that would otherwise be out of reach. Others are now more worldly and mature, and can see the value in a higher education that their younger, less experienced selves never saw. Still others use college as a kind of buffer between the highly structured military life they’ve led and our “every-man-for-himself” civilian world.
But, the transition from the intensity of military life to a more self-sufficient civilian life can be overwhelming. In some ways, it’s similar to the experiences of laid-off workers: both groups may feel disoriented and suffer losses of identity and work-related friendships. But former military personnel report feeling not just disoriented, but deeply alienated from the rest of America; not just sad over the loss of friendships, but devastated over the loss of brothers and sisters; not just a temporary destabilizing of identity, but a complete identity crisis.
Some veterans hope college will ease their discomfort. But whether they enter a small community college or a large state university, new challenges await. On top of the usual new student fears, they may also have a spouse or young family to care for and support. They may have new cognitive difficulties or fears of being singled out because they fought in an unpopular war. A supportive and informed faculty, therefore, is the key to these veterans’ success.
Lighthall goes on to highlight ten important things for faculty to be aware of when veterans are in our classes:
1. Student veterans are one of America’s greatest untapped human resources.
2. To succeed, veterans need your understanding, compassion and respect.
10. Student veterans are a highly diverse group—as diverse as America itself.
My students who have served in the military often express they like working in groups and balancing multiple tasks. Our online Discussion Board is a venue for students to share their experiences:
DB Student 1: I plan to pursue a career in the medical field. I was an infantry medic and a surgical technician in the army for ten years. I’ve been working at a fast food BBQ chain, while submitting applications to surrounding hospitals. I’m married, I’ve been playing drums over twenty years, I enjoy weight lifting and cooking. This is my first online class, I’ve attempted college before but had to withdraw for a variety of reasons – mostly PTSD related stuff. The only concern I have with an online class is the efficiency of correspondence, if I don’t understand an assignment, how long until I receive clarification?
DB Student 2: I plan to major in accounting, and I plan to get my accounting certificate in accounting by this summer. I have not taken online classes before, and I do not have any concerns about online instructions. It is pretty straight forward what you have to do. I am used to following orders. I did two Iraq tours as a security officer in the Army. Now I am working in three jobs. One of them is in Chicago downtown at an breakfast restaurant as a bus boy, and another one is in Burr Ridge at a Chinese restaurant as a cook, and my other job is at a lumberyard in Edison Park. I work about 45 hours per week, which is a lot less time than working a typical week in the Army.
Are we prepared to deal with the unique needs of former service members? Many veterans face a difficult transition to civilian life, ranging from readjustment issues to recovery from physical and psychological injuries. At College of DuPage we have a Veterans Services Office providing a range of support:
- Process Veterans and Military Personnel Educational Benefits
- Information on veteran scholarships, emergency loans
- VA work study program
- Campus tours
- Access to student veterans lounge, study area with computers
- SVA (Student Veterans Association)
- Referrals for local veteran assistance organizations
- Referrals for specialized veterans counseling
- Individual student advocacy
- Social and educational programs
- Laptops are available to veterans who are currently enrolled in credit classes with a COD Library Card.
College of DuPage offers a vast array of services for all students. Veteran students are encouraged to contact the services listed below for assistance with successful completion of their studies.
Participation in Ongoing Programs and Events
- Veterans Day Observance
- Memorial Day Observance
- Career Fair
- Rockin for the Troops
Student Veterans of America
Help make our community better, one voice is nothing compared to hundreds.
Stand up and make your voice heard.
Join the SVA mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org today!