Veterans are an integral part of our country as well as our education system. Recently, Education Dive reported on a couple of higher education institutions that are taking measures to provide veterans with tailored experiences while they are completing their education. There is an encouraging “renewed national commitment to supporting active duty and discharged veterans.”
According to a study conducted in 2011 by the American Council on Education, transitional resources for veterans have been a major focus for colleges. Six years later, many colleges and universities continue to innovate in areas supporting veterans in school and their families.
Texas A&M University has adopted the Military Cultural Competency training program, a “hybrid mini-course” that uses both online and in-person elements. The program was implemented to help staff understand the nuances of military culture so they can maximize their ability to assist veterans. Karen Kalmbach, clinical psychologist and leader of the aforementioned program at TAMU-SA, explained, “between the military and higher education, there are many opposites [that] veterans are trying to navigate; the military is an authoritarian system and is very team oriented. In college, it is very much about individual drive and capability.”
Kalmbach also said: “We talk about the strengths and assets military students bring. Even if they are afraid that they don’t belong, they have leadership skills and have been responsible for millions [of dollars] in equipment and hundreds of people. They can help more traditional students better understand professional and academic priorities. They take leadership very seriously, and we just try to show them how those skills can be leveraged in a higher education environment.”
Indeed, the training and experiences that veterans and active duty members of the military can bring a lot of value to a campus and to fellow students. Veterans can also learn a lot from non-military students as well, and perhaps those more traditional students can help military students become accommodated and comfortable with civilian life once again.
Another institution, the University of Southern California, has established a free mental health clinic on their Los Angeles campus, partnering with Cohen Veterans Network. “The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at USC offers free assessment and resources to veterans and their families seeking treatment for a variety of mental health conditions.” The facility on the campus is open one day a week, and it’s also open to veterans who may “be ineligible for treatment at veterans medical facilities, specifically those with service in the National Guard or who left service without an honorable discharge.”
This renewed national commitment to helping veterans throughout their college career may encourage more of them to pursue a degree. Veterans and active-duty soldiers can add significant value to our higher education system and, later, in the workforce.