Five Ways to Create Success for Veterans in Higher Education (Part 2)
3. Creating a Sense of Community
Providing a sense of community for veterans can be created through student veteran groups. Creating a student veterans’ association that builds camaraderie and friendship provides veterans with the sense they’re not just the old guy who got lost on campus, but that there are others who have done or are doing the same thing. Student organizations that have the most impact are those that are active in the university but also in the community. By pushing students veterans’ associations to pursue a chapter with Student Veterans of America or taking part in community service or working with other student organizations on campus, veterans will stay engaged and will be able to give back to others. My current university has been extremely helpful in creating events such as a panel discussion on war and media featuring student vets, a panel on PTSD and numerous other community events.
4. Ensuring Faculty are Properly Briefed on Veteran Life
Another interesting strategy less focused on veterans themselves but more on faculty and professors is the Transitional Assistance and Guidance (TAGS) program. This is a four-hour program taught by veterans that provides a military-style environment for faculty and teachers to teach them about military life. Its goal is to teach faculty and professors about life in the military and where their students are coming from. This has been an effective program and helps faculty to understand the veteran populations they’re interacting with in a more meaningful way.
5. Creating Employment Pathways
Programs such as Second Service Fellowships — through a non-profit called Veterans Campaign — provide students with networking opportunities to continue their service within the public sector. Second Service Fellowships gives veteran students access to elected leaders to teach and mentor veteran students for careers in politics and various positions within government. Programs like these have had amazing results in getting veteran students the knowledge and contacts to pursue local, state and national offices. Creating fellowship programs with outside organizations gives personalized attention to veterans while they’re in school.
Creating partnerships with non-profit organizations and investing in the veteran population itself can give higher education institutions the ability to tap into the vast potential veteran students can provide to universities. However it’s important that universities make a firm commitment to veterans and don’t become a cliché university known in the veteran community as a veteran-friendly school in name only. Veterans bring work ethic, knowledge, ingenuity and vast amounts of skills to schools. However, universities must recognize this and make a strong effort accordingly to invest in veterans by providing a place where service and community are attainable.
Author Perspective: Student