Opening Lines of Communication
Of course, it is vital that veteran students become aware that faculty members understand their needs. Veteran friendly institutions can help foster better communication between student veterans and their instructors by passing along the following tips to faculty:
- Encourage veteran students to contact you if they encounter circumstances that may impact their performance in a particular course. This can be accomplished by simply adding a statement to your course syllabus.
- Veteran students may request seating preferences (back of the room, for example). Do not misunderstand this request – just understand that they are often more comfortable facing a group.
- Understand that some veterans may be initially hesitant to actively participate in class discussions. Allow each to build his/her own level of trust with you and other students.
- Expect the same classroom responsibilities and performance, but accommodate absences related to VA appointments or Reserve-duty commitments.
- Take the time to explain course assignments and institutional policies to all students (and do not single out student veterans). Military students will be used to following orders and directions. Learn about combat-related disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) but do not assume that all student veterans deal with the symptoms of these injuries.
- Structure your course with the spirit of universal design and teach using multiple methods to account for students who have different experiences, learning preferences and capabilities.
- Most importantly, avoid expressing personal sentiments related to war or military personnel that could alienate or embarrass student veterans. All veterans deserve recognition and appreciation for their service regardless of our personal opinions.
Most importantly, faculty should know where resources are on campus so that they can better direct student veterans needing assistance. These could include anything from an academic accommodation, to help with VA benefits, to knowing the policies in place for those called up for active duty. Instructors should know the single point of contact for veterans’ services on their campus. Knowledge is key to effective communication and mutual respect.