Reports from Panel Discussions (AccessComputing: Building Capacity for Veterans 2009)
Panel—Working Together: Disabled Student Services, Veterans Support, and Computing Departments
Staff from Florida State University, Georgia State University, Green River Community College, and University of Alaska-Anchorage shared information about their programs and activities that support veterans, particularly those with disabilities. Panel members recommended the following campus activities for creating a welcome environment for veterans:
- Create a Veteran's Coordinating Council that includes staff, faculty, and administrators. This council can explore how to make campus services relevant to veterans, including disability support services, recruitment, registration, and student services. This group may organize various events for veterans.
- Develop campus programs specifically for veterans (e.g., Veterans Conservation Corps) to facilitate networking with each other and the larger campus community.
- Post "vet friendly" signage in offices on campus to let veterans know in which offices they can find personnel who are sensitive to and knowledgeable about veteran's issues.
- Create and distribute a veteran's coin designed specifically for your campus. Collaborate with veteran students, faculty, and staff to help with the design of the coin. Assistance may be available from your local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) chapter.
- Make it clear to all students and staff that supporting veterans is about supporting people and families, not about individual political viewpoints.
- Plan activities to recognize and celebrate Veterans Day.
- Work toward institutional change by involving high-level administrators in planning.
- Engage with veteran's groups at other local campuses to share ideas and resources.
- Apply for funding from outside sources, such as an AccessComputing mini-grant, to host a CBI on your campus to assess the needs of student veterans and plan activities.
- Involve community agencies, such as vets centers, in campus events and committees.
- Start a veterans student group to focus on the social aspects of campus life and to build camaraderie.
- Design a website dedicated to veteran issues and resources. Post a prominent link to the site from the college's homepage.
- Provide coaching to new student veterans on how to access services on campus and gain academic skills necessary to succeed in postsecondary education.
- Form a veterans learning community. The student veterans in the community could attend orientation together, take the same classes, and connect with mentors. Provide training for faculty on traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and PTSD and how these conditions may impact students.
- Create and distribute a list of activities that may cause problems for some veterans, such as using a laser pointer in a dark room.
Panel—The Healing Effects of Education
Bridgett Cantrell, Hearts Toward Home International
Pat Shepherd, Fort Richardson
Participation in postsecondary education can play an important role in mitigating many of the effects caused by injury and trauma that result from deployments into conflict areas. Learning new things in the classroom and developing career goals as part of the school experience can help veterans look to the future with hope and excitement. Some of the points presented by panel members are summarized below:
- Ask and thank student veterans for their service—many people are touched in some way by people who have served in the military.
- Seek linkages and provide services to family members of student veterans.
- Don't pathologize or normalize symptoms, as some of them are survival skills.
- Our culture, unlike some other cultures, is missing rituals to welcome home warriors. There is no format for storytelling and healing after war. Facilitate storytelling in classrooms and communities. One option is to have a discussion in class about military issues. Invite student veterans to self-disclose and tell the class about their experiences in the service.
- Returning soldiers are less likely to access disability services and to otherwise self-identify as having a disability than other students with disabilities.
- Every returning soldier is changed by his or her experiences. For example, many deal with sleeping issues. It is important to look at veterans as individuals to identify their unique needs for accommodations and general support.
- Suicide is becoming more salient with returning soldiers. Many are able to mask feelings, adapted from skills needed to be a warrior. Interpret non-verbal communication as best you can and maintain linkages with counseling opportunities.
- Some veterans experience or perceive stigmas related to seeking or receiving health care on campus. Normalize self-care as an important skill for all students.
- Connect to education services counselors on military bases. They may be able to help translate military service into school credit. Ask about remediation programs and academic testing centers to help soldiers prepare for outside education.