Teaching Coming Home: Roundtable on the Issues of Contemporary Veterans in the Classroom and the University Environment

AHA Session 278
Saturday, January 7, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Room 603 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Kyle Longley, Arizona State University
Ricardo A. Herrera, United States Army Command and General Staff College
John M. Kinder, Oklahoma State University
Ron Milam, Texas Tech University
Margaret D. Sankey, Minnesota State University, Moorhead
Donald R. Shaffer, Upper Iowa University and American Public University System

Session Abstract

Since 2003, more and more veterans of the recent wars as well as others who served outside of war zones have returned to college campuses, funded by a generous expansion of the GI Bill. While many are STEM majors, building off the focus of society at the moment and their own skill sets developed in the military, many have to meet the requirements in the humanities required by many states or simply they want to better understand their own personal experiences in combat zones. Often, classes such a military history and the Vietnam War attract large numbers of veterans, although many take a variety of other courses ranging from the Middle East History to Modern Europe.

When they enter the classroom, they bring a different set of experiences than the majority of eighteen-year-old students. They often are older, have vastly different life experiences outside of the sheltered environment of many traditional students, and also carry the baggage of the military service including life changing combat experiences. This creates some unique challenges for instructors. While some veterans remain reticent, many tend to be more vocal in class, obviously more mature than many of their counterparts (and often more serious about their studies). They also tend to not tolerate some of the immaturity of the traditional students who complain about simple things like dining hall food that demonstrates a dramatic gulf between the veterans and their colleagues. Finally, some bring hidden traumas into the classroom including PTSD that sometimes manifest themselves in responses to particular types of materials including movies and books. The idea of “trigger warnings” will be something that the panel will discuss. The main thing the roundtable hopes to accomplish is to get people in the academy to better consider this population and the best way to approach the many opportunities provided by veterans in the classroom and the general university.

We have incorporated multiple types of colleges and universities into the presentation ranging from the General Staff College to the online only institutions that have many veterans participating, both active duty and retired. The goal is to provide the audience a wide-ranging set of experiences from teachers at many different levels (several such as Dr. Sankey in a state university and a war college). It should be one that means a lot to many across the country and in many different settings.

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