Ten Ways To Make College More Friendly To Veterans

Career College Central summary:

  • What can college leaders do to improve the friendliness of campuses to veterans and their children? Here’s a  list of 10 concrete suggestions:

    • 1. Many of the web listings for college leaders, trustees, faculty and staff simply include their names and occasionally their affiliations. Why couldn’t we post a bit more information, including military service or work with the military (say, consulting or government contracting)? This would be an easy way for veterans or military-connected children and their parents to see that many others on campus have been engaged with the Services in one capacity or another.
    • 2. Of the many photos in a president’s office or waiting area, are there pictures of the president, or of his or her family members, in uniform? Even if decades old, such photographs would communicate that the president’s spouse or parent or relatives served our nation. Personnel working with the president could also display photos in this area. Other items to display are the flags of the Services. The student center or other community areas might be a good place for these.
    • 3. Why not add a prize specific to veterans—the qualifications for which could vary from campus to campus. Some might consider academic excellence, or most improved academic performance, or greatest display of on-campus leadership. The point is to give specific, targeted prizes or medals to vets who have contributed in meaningful ways to the campus community and their own progression toward a degree.
    • 4. College leaders could create equivalents to Military Challenge Coins and hand them out on campus to well-deserving students—veterans, military-connected children and non-veterans alike. At Southern Vermont College, they started an initiative like this, not keyed specifically to veterans but based on the military tradition. It would be relatively easy and economical to have coins made and then create a culture in which receiving one of these coins would have real meaning for recipients.
    • 5. Veterans and military-connected students could be invited to share their experiences with the president and trustees at board meetings. This could be accomplished during lunch or some other convenient time within the normal meeting structure, with staff and faculty involved with veterans or military-connected students sharing programmatic initiatives in place or in development.
    • 6. Academia, like the military, is filled with traditions and pomp and circumstance. There’s also academic regalia.  But the hoods and robes have meaning, historical and contemporary, and this is worth sharing with veterans—and more than just a paragraph in the commencement program.
    • 7. Many veterans are accustomed to sports that are not in our NCAA repertoire, such as golf and bowling, which are frequently played by those stationed abroad. We need to consider ways not only to offer these sports to vets but also to create competitions and events that enable these sports to generate interest and build community.
    • 8. Faculty, staff and trustees across our campus have connections and relationships that can lead to employment opportunities for students in general and vets in particular. Some companies even have jobs earmarked for returning service men and women. College leaders could develop these opportunities and then work with their career centers to offer campus-based veteran job banks, for example.
    • 9. When talking about their institutions, college leaders can make a conscious effort to speak about all students and reference institutional diversity in an expansive way—racial and ethnic; experiential and age; civil and military service to our nation. This will enable both insiders and outsiders to see the incredible richness on our campuses.
    • 10. College leaders should read some of the remarkable literature addressing the challenges that service members face as they transition from military life to civilian life: Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam (1994), Nancy Sherman’s The Untold War (2010), Emily King’s Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing, and Retaining Veterans (2011), and James Wright’s Those Who Have Borne the Battle (2012).

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