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Schools train teachers, reach out to vets to help them acclimate

Mar. 30, 2011 - 02:15PM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 30, 2011 - 02:15PM  |  
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Mental health experts agree that education — of veterans and educators — is key to helping vets succeed on campus. While the sheer number of colleges and universities means change has been slow, positive examples abound in higher education:

* At the University of Iowa, Tamara Woods, the psychology doctoral student who helped start a three-credit, veterans-only course called "Life After War: Post-Deployment Issues," has also begun working with academic advisers to educate them about the effects of combat and post-traumatic stress disorder on student vets.

* In Washington state, psychologist Peter Schmidt has trained faculty and staff at about 80 schools through the state VA office's Veteran-Friendly Campus program. He helps faculty and staff to better understand military culture, and how best to adapt each campus environment to meet the needs of the returning combat veteran.

* The Supportive Education for the Returning Veteran program at Cleveland State University assists veterans transitioning to an academic environment by providing such services as veterans-only classes, academic advising, enrollment assistance and career counseling.

* At Citrus College in Glendora, Calif., a social network connects student vets to each other, and the Boots to Books course teaches interpersonal skills, techniques for dealing with transition issues and stress management.

Of course, a school can still be responsive to the needs of student veterans without a formal program in place. Some things to look for:

* Does the school have an active veterans club/group?

* Are veterans assigned mentors or veterans counselors?

* Is there a separate veterans office — one that deals with more than just processing education benefits paperwork?

* Has the school's faculty and staff been trained to identify symptoms or signs of mental health issues like depression or PTSD?

* Does the school offer any special classes that are veterans-only and/or that specifically address veterans issues?

* Are there any veterans monuments or pro-veteran posters or signs on campus?

Answers by RallyPoint

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