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Advising Veteran Students. Steve Johnson Academic Advisor/Instructor/Veteran Linda Skabelund Math/Statistics Academic Advisor Utah State University (USU) Logan, UT [email protected] [email protected] 2011 NACADA National Conference. Objectives.

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Advising Veteran Students

Steve Johnson

Academic Advisor/Instructor/Veteran

Linda Skabelund

Math/Statistics Academic Advisor

Utah State University (USU)

Logan, UT

[email protected]

[email protected]

2011 NACADA National Conference


Opportunities Advising Student Veterans

  • Advising related to veteran benefits ‏

  • Veteran advantages and challenges in higher education

  • Education-related PTSD and TBI issues

  • Helpful tips in advising veterans

Why Work with Veterans

  • Personal Reasons

    • Family

    • Friends

    • Work

  • Professional Observations

    • Experiences

    • Advising vs. Counselling

Who Are We Talking About?

  • 20% Are female veterans

  • 80% Are male veterans

  • 50-60% Are married veterans

  • 50% Have children

  • 45% Under 30 - people of color

  • 95% Have high school diploma

Challenges of deployments
Challenges of Deployments

  • Harsh living conditions

    • 130 °F ~

    • Unrelenting noise

    • Lack of privacy

Challenges of deployments1
Challenges of Deployments

  • Separation from family

    • Problems related to communication

  • Long and multiple deployments

  • Prolonged exposure to stress hormones

  • Sexual harassment/military sexual trauma

War zone stress
War-Zone Stress

  • Urban combat with no clear front line

  • Constant threat of being attacked

  • Ambiguous, unknown civilian threats

  • Challenge of fighting “fair” (ROE)

Combat experiences mental health advisory team
Combat Experiences (Mental Health Advisory Team)

  • Being attacked/ambushed 52%

  • Receiving small arms fire 58%

  • IED/Booby trap exploded near you 49%

  • Seeing dead bodies/human remains 60%

  • Shooting/directing fire at the enemy 36%

  • Receiving artillery, rocket, mortar fire 78%

  • Knowing one seriously injured/killed 72%

  • Directly responsible for an enemy

    combatant death 13%

Potential psychological vet challenges on campus
Potential Psychological Vet Challenges on Campus

  • Substance abuse/dependence

  • Depression/suicide

  • Anxiety

  • Reintegration issues

  • PTSD - combat stress*

  • Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)*

    * TBI and PTSD are not veteran-specific injuries. Conflicts overseas have pushed these invisible injuries into the spotlight

Veteran Statistics

1.86+ Million deployed since 9/11

- 288,952+ veterans on US campuses

Where current veterans attend:

  • 38% Community colleges

  • 36% 4-year public institutions

  • 19% For-profit inst. (online/distance)‏

  • 6% Private institutions

  • 1% Undetermined

    (Top institution: U of Phoenix – online)

GI Bill Monthly Comparisons

Ug equivalent credit hours
UG Equivalent Credit Hours

  • 12 Credit Hrs = full time

  • 9 Credit Hrs = 3/4 time

  • 6 Credit Hrs = 1/2 time

Helping Veterans

  • Growing drop-out rate. Veterans graduate at 1/10 rate of other students

  • Advising depends on benefit plan options

  • Majority of new people join Armed Services to get an education

  • Less than 10% of eligible veterans use all their educational assistance ‏

  • About 6% of the new GI Bill use all entitled benefit hours

  • Student veteran concerns - save time and money

What is ptsd posttraumatic stress disorder
What is PTSD? **(Posttraumatic Stress Disorder)

  • Normal reactions to abnormally stressful events ---> usually goes away

    (+50% of us go thru some type of trauma)

  • ** Prolonged reactions after a severe traumatic event ---> doesn’t go away

Ptsd facts based on the u s population
PTSD Facts(Based on the U.S. Population)

  • 7-8% of us will have PTSD in our lives

  • 5.2 million adults have PTSD per year (more experience trauma)

  • About 10% of women develop PTSD

  • About 5% of men develop PTSD

Experts estimate ptsd occurs in
Experts Estimate PTSD Occurs in:

  • 11-20% of Vets in Iraq/Afghanistan Wars

  • 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Vets

  • 30% of Vietnam Veterans

Symptoms of ptsd
Symptoms of PTSD

  • Persistent re-experiencing of the event:

    • Intrusive recollections (flashbacks)

    • Nightmares

  • Avoidance of trauma-associated stimuli

    • Feeling of detachment

    • Avoid things that remind them

  • Persistent symptoms of increased arousal

    • Hyper-vigilance

    • Exaggerated startle response

    • Difficulty concentrating, sleeping

    • Irritability

Mild traumatic brain injury m tbi
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (M-TBI)

  • Defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the functioning of the brain

  • Signature wound for current wars

  • Main cause for Veterans

    - Blasts, explosions

    - Damage occurs without impact to the head

Consequences of m tbi
Consequences of M-TBI

  • Physical

    • Headache, dizziness, fatigue, noise/light intolerance, insomnia, sleep disturbance, balance/visual problems

  • Emotional

    • Depression, anxiety, irritability, moodability

TBI & PTSD Cognitive Difficulties

• Attention and concentration difficulties

• Information processing challenges

• Learning and memory deficits

• Sluggish abstract reasoning

• Slowed execution functions

- Problem solving, sequencing

- Insight/awareness

- Planning

Depression and suicide
Depression and Suicide

More than twice as likely to commit suicide than non-vets

18.7 to 20.8 per 100,000 compared to 8.9 for non-vets.

Risk factors:


Substance abuse issues

Prior psychiatric hospitalization

Firearms may be more readily available

Utah State University

  • About 450 veteran students

  • Veterans Resource and Affairs Office

  • Veteran/Non-traditional student orientation

  • Professional training for staff on PTSD?

  • Veterans Club and Mentorship program

  • Veteran work-study students

  • Counselling and advising veterans

  • Veteran Advisory Board

  • Veteran Celebration Days

Veteran Advantages

  • Learned self-discipline and to follow instructions

  • Maturity, act older than most same-age students. Average age is 25 - 34

  • Value education, they have worked and paid for it - not valued as financial aid

  • Often have some other kind of financial support

  • Eagerness to get a good education. Feel to have lost time already

  • Doing something positive for their lives ‏

Job Market Advantages

  • Military improves/reinforces excellent work qualities (dedicated & determined)

  • Experiences prepared them for civilian work force (accountability & responsibility)

  • Military experiences applicable to jobs being sought

  • Experience(s) can credit/serve for salary purposes (teaching subjects, supervising others, etc.)

At Large Accommodations

  • One-stop center – pros and cons

  • Thorough veterans orientation program

  • Accessible vet resources on college website

  • Vet services referral list for advisors/students

  • Opportunities to meet vets - Vet Club, Mtg Room, Support Groups, etc.

  • Programs offering academic credit for military experience

  • Flexible enrollment and exit procedures

  • Campus-wide committee on veteran services

Accommodation Strategies

  • Implement veterans services at a campus level using student veteran employees

  • Coordination with all campus groups: health center, disabilities, counseling, etc.

  • Increase faculty and staff awareness of veteran issues and resources available

  • Use disability universal design principles to accommodate needs of veterans

  • Coordinate campus and community resources with veterans in mind

Advisor Considerations

  • Explore your feelings about war and soldiers. Respect and treat them as any other student

  • Make veterans feel welcomed, provide warm, friendly, connected service‏

  • Be informed about special needs referrals

  • Know about benefits and what they must do if orders come before a term ends

  • Be understanding and available in their transition to school

What can advisors do to help
What Can Advisors Do to Help?

  • Listen and validate

  • Be real and genuine

  • Consult and learn from other professionals on campus

  • Refer veterans to other campus resources: counseling center, disability resources, etc.

Advisor Crisis Intervention Tips

Have a response for dealing effectively with the Veteran student

  • Be brief, immediate and focused

  • Often requires advisor input

  • Allow them to voice their story and focus on their strengths

  • Focus on the concrete, and provide ongoing support and follow-up

Advisor Considerations

  • Don’t seat them with their back to the door or with a closed door

  • Don’t discuss vet issues besides benefits unless they mention it

  • Ask if deployment is soon – explain what they have to do if deployed

  • If problems arise, calm student and avoid confrontational situation

Other Considerations

Veterans may take a full load for financial reasons and to make up time

  • Discuss time management issues

  • Discuss college/job/family/friends/self

  • Good grades require time and hard work

  • Bad grades hurt by losing time/money

Courses To Recommend

  • Depends on the benefit plan

  • Smaller classes are preferable

  • Advising for online classes requires familiarity with benefit plan

  • New GI-Bill limits percentage of online classes

  • Classes with practical applications are preferable initially

Course Accommodations

  • Recommend multiple delivery in methods, assignments and materials

  • Provide syllabus, powerpoint and materials in advance

  • Provide opportunities to submit assign-ments for feedback prior to final grade

  • Communicate with students, instructors, counselling of disability issues/resources

  • Permit flexibility in class attendance

  • Use extra time assessments

Some best practices
Some Best Practices

  • University of South Florida

  • Texas A&M Website for Veterans

  • University of Colorado at Boulder

    • University of Minnesota

Other Useful Websites

  • GI-Bill Information:

  • Military Education and Careers

  • Forming a Campus Student Veterans Group

  • Resource Directory – National, State, Local for Service Members and Families

Thank You

  • Questions

  • Discussion Items