Four CBI participants sit around a tableCBI participants represented a wide range of stakeholder groups, including postsecondary faculty and staff, employees of veterans-serving organizations, and veterans. They came together to brainstorm ideas for serving veterans in postsecondary education in general, and, specifically, to encourage veterans with disabilities to pursue computing and IT careers. Their discussions are summarized below.

Question 1: What are the anticipated effects of the new G.I. Bill on our campuses? What are the characteristics of veterans returning to school?

It is anticipated that there will be increasing numbers of veterans with disabilities on our campuses. Common disabilities include TBI and PTSD, amputations, and sensory impairments. Greater numbers of student veterans are attending two-year rather than four-year schools.

Veterans returning to school, especially those with disabilities, often:

  • are facing challenges in adjusting to civilian life
  • deny or minimize the impact that their disability has on their learning
  • want to fit in and be "normal"; are unsure of what academic field will be a good fit with their skills, interests, training, and talents
  • fear failure
  • are frustrated with trying to navigate the college system and are impatient with bureaucracy

Question 2: How can disability support services and computing faculty work together to effectively support veterans with disabilities?

Both groups are key to creating successful experiences for veterans with disabilities. Disability support services can:

  • identify common barriers for veterans with disabilities in computing fields and work collaboratively to create solutions
  • create and distribute brochures similar to DO-IT's Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities that are tailored specifically to issues for veterans in postsecondary education and computing fields
  • encourage computing faculty to be inclusive of diverse populations, including veterans, when creating assessments and examples
  • provide personalized outreach to share information with computing faculty about student veteran needs and class-specific accommodations
  • provide training for teaching assistants on teaching and working with veterans with disabilities in computing classes and labs
  • offer brown bag lunch programs for computing faculty on working with veterans with disabilities
  • involve faculty in developing solutions to meet specific student needs
  • look for commonalities and shared purpose with the computing department (e.g., assistive and accessible technologies)
  • partner with faculty on research projects funded by outside sources that relate to the computing needs of veterans with disabilities
  • provide avenues to discuss how veterans can self-advocate and share their needs and concerns with faculty and staff
  • create a feedback loop with the student, the faculty member, and the disability services staff to make adjustments to accommodations and settings as needed
  • recognize faculty who are effectively serving veterans with disabilities and promote best practices
  • create a support team that promotes an ongoing collaboration between disability services, student veterans, computing faculty, and outside support services
  • seek out opportunities to collaborate and capitalize on existing relationships.

Computing and IT faculty and their departments can:

  • look for commonalities and shared purpose with disability services (e.g., assistive and accessible technologies)
  • identify common barriers for veterans with disabilities in computing fields and work collaboratively with disability support services to create solutions
  • arrange visits for disability services staff to computing classrooms to see accommodations in action and provide a first-hand look at what accommodations may need to be made in a computer lab or class
  • educate disability and student services staff on the computing fields available so that they can appropriately advise and refer students
  • find a faculty member, preferably a veteran, who can train, mentor, and share information and resources with other faculty
  • broaden the definition of computing to recognize the breadth of information technology fields
  • offer computer literacy courses aimed at providing foundational computing skills for student veterans
  • create a welcoming environment for veterans with disabilities in the classroom and the IT department
  • create opportunities for new student veterans to connect with past student veterans who have been successful in computing programs
  • create a feedback loop with the student, the faculty member, and the disability services staff to make adjustments to accommodations and settings as needed
  • recognize faculty who are effectively serving veterans with disabilities and promoting best practices
  • provide continuing education and professional development credit for faculty who take courses or receive training in accessible technologies
  • seek out opportunities to collaborate and capitalize on existing relationships

Question 3: What types of services and supports can postsecondary institutions enhance or develop in anticipation of the needs of veterans with disabilities?

Key stakeholders can offer separate supports or work together to serve veterans with disabilities. Suggested partnerships between postsecondary institutions and local veterans organizations that may address the needs of veterans include:

  • Strengthen connections between the campus disability services office and organizations that provide veteran transition services such as Vet Centers, VA Hospitals, and family readiness programs;
  • Develop articulation agreements between the campus disability services office and the VA vocational rehabilitation counselors to coordinate services and provide a "warm hand-off" for student veterans;
  • Create an annual open house hosted by the campus disability services office and invite local veterans organizations (e.g., VFW, the Foreign Legion, and Combat Vets International) to participate;
  • Strengthen partnerships between campus student services and local veterans organizations;
  • Provide opportunities for campus health centers and the disability services office to collaborate on understanding the effects of medication on learning and living in a campus community. Promote collaboration between the campus disability services office and emergency response team to improve understanding of the specific needs and characteristics of returning veterans.

Suggested veteran services and activities to address the needs of veterans include:

  • Promote an overarching message of inclusive community to make veterans with disabilities feel welcome on campus;
  • Provide a postsecondary transition guide to local veterans centers and hospitals for veterans interested in pursuing a postsecondary education;
  • Link postsecondary education opportunities to military skill sets. Map military specialties to specific programs;
  • Reach out to student veterans who may be invisible on campus, such as contractors and veterans who were never deployed, and include them in the campus community;
  • Provide outreach services to the families and social networks of student veterans;
  • Spread the message that being a veteran with a disability is cool;
  • Create a campus resource guide for student veterans;
  • Include campus and community resources for veterans in orientation activities and presentations;
  • Increase the visibility and accessibility of campus and community services for veterans;
  • Create a one-stop-shopping model of student services; utilize staff who are knowledgeable about veterans issues to provide services;
  • Create opportunities for student veterans to participate in service projects, mentoring, and tutoring with other veterans;
  • Use online social networking tools (e.g., Facebook) to develop community and distribute information about campus events and resources;
  • Develop a veterans speakers bureau (name suggestion: Vocal Vets) that involves community leaders and provides resources beyond the college campus;
  • Establish an atmosphere of camaraderie and support as well as a place for student veterans to gather, such as a vets club;
  • Provide opportunities on campus for veterans to express themselves through art, drama, audiovisual projects, and other creative outlets;
  • Organize Veterans Day activities (tributes, career fairs, history, service, art gallery, etc.);
  • Create support networks between student veterans and faculty and staff members who are also veterans;
  • Offer introductory or mini-college courses to ease the transition into academic life.

Suggestions for training courses and support for faculty and staff in working with student veterans include:

  • Educate faculty and student services staff on the needs of student veterans;
  • Encourage faculty and staff to talk with student veterans to increase understanding of their interests and needs;
  • Create and distribute guidelines for faculty that explain veteran disability issues;
  • Present information to faculty on universal design and its application to veterans with disabilities;
  • Share the many positive attributes that student veterans bring to campus such as experience, motivation, and dedication;
  • Identify and address myths and stigmas associated with veterans with disabilities;
  • Include information about serving veterans with disabilities in new faculty training;
  • Involve high-level administrators who have the power to mandate policy changes in conversations about creating services for veterans;
  • Arrange opportunities for faculty or staff to tour military bases and hospitals through civilian orientation tours;
  • Create cultural competency by providing training for faculty and staff on military culture, language, and customs;
  • Identify faculty and staff who are also veterans who will serve as mentors for student veterans;
  • Provide training for student veterans on how to talk with faculty and advocate for their needs.

Question 4: How can schools partner with military bases and veterans organizations to improve the recruitment and support of veterans with disabilities into computing departments?

Suggestions to improve the recruitment and support of veterans with disabilities follow:

  • Find a local Warrior Transition Unit and ask about partnerships and community information sessions;
  • Contact your local base to ask about community trainings;
  • Train staff to provide help regarding admission requirements. Remember that it's not accurate to look at soldiers as fresh out of high school. Many have received advanced military training;
  • Review admissions deadlines and policies to see how they align with important dates for soldiers' availability and programs at bases;
  • Visit a Vet Center near your campus. Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling and outreach services to all veterans who served in any combat zone. Services are also available for family members for military-related issues. Veterans have earned these benefits through their service and all are provided at no cost to the veteran or family.