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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)

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