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College Transitions for Student Veterans. Martina Preston-Sternberg, PhD (ABD) Monica Solinas -Saunders, PhD Dan Nyaronga , PhD. OUTLINE. FACTS PERCEIVED OBSTACLES VETERANS AS STUDENTS FACULTY IMPACT SUMMARY. FACTS.

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college transitions for student veterans

College Transitions for Student Veterans

Martina Preston-Sternberg, PhD (ABD)

Monica Solinas-Saunders, PhD

Dan Nyaronga, PhD

  • 1.5 million service members have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and are eligible for GI benefits (IAVA)
  • Thousands have been deployed multiple times in regular cycles resulting in mid-semester withdrawals
  • New GI Bill goes into effect August 2009- allows veterans to transfer a portion of educational benefits to dependents
  • Indiana has tuition remission for children of disabled veterans
  • New GI bill could increase student veteran population as it provides 4 academic years of educational benefits
  • Over 15,000 Guard and Reserve service members live and work in Indiana
  • 4000 deployed service members have recently returned


financial benefits to campuses
Financial Benefits To Campuses

28,147 Service members have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11

6,535 Service members are currently deployed

70% of Veterans attend college, many with the G.I. Bill

19,702($4500)=$88,663,050 (Statewide)

Over 4yrs.=$709,304,400 (Statewide)

Only 8% persist to graduation

Net loss of $652,560,048 (Statewide)

Courtesy of John Schuppe and Ryan Carlson

academic and social integration
Academic and Social Integration
  • Tinto study - Two variables important to retention efforts are academic integration and social integration (Tinto, 1993).
  • Students are academically and socially integrated when they have positive regard for their academic performance and they value the social relationships they have established at the institution.
perceived obstacles from student veteran perspective
Perceived ObstaclesFrom Student Veteran Perspective

Academic integration

  • College is “a puzzling maze”
  • Adjusting to college life
  • Lack of assistance or awareness from departments on campus

Social Integration / Connecting with Peers

  • Identity issues
  • Finances
obstacles medical emotional financial
OBSTACLES: Medical, Emotional, Financial
  • Adjustment to college life is difficult – WHY?
  • Physical conditions (TBI – mild to severe, amputations, GI, pulmonary, dermatologic – burns on body, hearing loss, loss of sight, etc)
  • Combat Stress Injuries (PTSD, depression, anxiety and panic, anger, substance abuse)
  • Financial
  • Reintegration (family, leaving battle buddies, making new friends, new culture of civilian life)
post traumatic stress disorder ptsd
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD)
  • Symptoms of depression, irritability, reliving intense emotional trauma, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, memory and concentration problems, anger, lack of trust
  • Most prevalent symptoms include hyperarousal, re-experiencing, and avoidance (Brenner et al., 1996)
  • Symptoms impede academic success and decrease persistence to degree completion
  • Symptoms can begin at anytime in semester
traumatic brain injury tbi
Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI)
  • Signature injury of Iraq/Afghanistan war
  • Walter Reed Hospital: about 60% of cases are TBI traumatic brain injury
  • Severity is on a continuum from mild to severe; often accompanied by forgetfulness and restless sleep
  • Sleep filled with “feelings of helplessness,” loss of control
  • Headaches, sensitivity to light or noise, behavioral changes.
  • Thinking (impaired memory and reasoning; loss of problem solving ability).
  • Further complications of sensation (touch, taste, and smell) and language
  • Emotion (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, social inappropriateness).
  • Symptoms impede academic success—forgotten homework, assignments, procrastination, missed appointments, lack of time management skills
  • Reduced chance of academic persistence/success unless appropriate intervention
going from the battlefield to home and class can be a hard reintegration process
Going from the Battlefield to Home and Class Can Be a Hard Reintegration Process

“You go from that situation where everything goes 100 miles an hour, and it goes down to five miles an hour. I sit there [during class] and I’m tapping my foot and I’m anxious.”


Reintegration – hard?

When a service member

comes home, he/she may

find it hard....

Borrowed from Dr. Jennifer Lambert, VA Medical Center

how does combat affect your student veterans in your class
How does combat affect your student veterans in YOUR class
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Difficulty concentrating, focusing, homework
  • Discomfort in crowds, classrooms, closed spaces, need to sit where they have best view of surroundings
  • Anger/impatience
  • Loud noises can be disturbing
  • Depression, loss of motivation
  • Feel out of place/different (isolated)
  • Sensitive to war references
  • Adjustment from combat to campus
      • Unusual items may cause anxiety-backpacks, crumpled bags, etc.
what do veterans add to your c lass
What Do Veterans ADD To Your Class?

“I think that my time in the service gives me a lot of appreciation for an education that otherwise wouldn’t be possible,”

Bring a different perspective to classrooms:

Faculty were interviewed and most enjoyed having student veterans because they were committed to learning and shared real world experience that enriched the learning environment

“Veterans were very much more serious than other students…they were really smart fellows who work very hard” (Edmonds, 2001: 136).

“They challenged Professors who had not been challenged before…they put good input into the college” (Edmonds, 2001: 136).

what can faculty do
What Can Faculty Do?
  • Includeveterans information on syllabus
  • Student veterans may/may not feel comfortable publicizing their veteran status. This is especially true for some topics. If your course covers war topics establish an atmosphere they feel comfortable in.
  • Be understanding of veterans different viewpoint on topics.
  • Be flexible with attendance for student veterans who have appointments with Veterans Affairs. Rescheduling these appointments is often not possible or result in a long delay.
  • Be aware of military spouses and family members with individuals deployed. This is a very difficult period for them as well.
  • Know the college and community resources that might be available
  • Takes VA a LONG time to diagnose student vets with a disability so they can use disability support services – REFER if needed
  • Last experience in a class setting may not have been stellar – have learned and grown – help student veterans realize how their military skills have set them up to succeed THIS time in school
simple do s and don ts for faculty
Simple Do’s and Don’ts for Faculty


Provide support and structure

Recognize service and sacrifice

Expect good performance, but remember it takes time to readjust

Know what resources are available and refer if needed


Assume the worst

Label with PTSD, TBI (some combat vets have it some don’t)

Isolate or make them stand out from their peers

Make them a spokesperson for “war” or the military

Make comments about the war that might isolate

“We Love Your Faces But Hate Your Bases!”

innovations around the country
Innovations Around the Country

Financial Support

Veteran Support

Veterans’ Desk

Upward Bound for Vets

Online support center for vets – 24/7

Veteran Services Office – one stop shops

Online services, resources, classes

Identified academic counselors

Identified disability support counselors

Adapted first year seminar

Student vet club

Referral/coordination with VA and community resources


Orientation to help adapt from military culture to college culture

PE classes – adapted as needed

  • Scholarships for veterans & spouses
  • Tuition remission for children of disabled vets
  • Grants for tuition and fees
  • In-State tuition rate for state colleges
  • Waiver first semester tuition (ISU)

Education and awareness:

  • In-service training for faculty/staff
  • Training available on website for faculty/staff
What can WE do to engage and integrate student veterans?What can student veterans do to help faculty help student veterans?
  • Veterans are deployed at highest number in many years
  • Veteran, spouse & child enrollments likely to increase
  • GI Bill will increase benefits beginning August 2009
  • Perceived obstacles of student veterans
  • Innovations around the country
  • What can we do at Ivy Tech to increase academic and social integration and therefore retain student veterans and family members
thank you for serving