NIU currently enrolls over 500 veterans, and this number is expected to increase in the near future as more veterans complete their service and seek higher education opportunities. Universities play a large role in the transition veterans make when they return to civilian life and also benefit from veterans’ presence on their campuses.
Many students face challenges when they come to a university. The challenges may include how to study, manage their time, interact with their instructors and classmates, learn about campus support services, and university policies and procedures. For veterans, who are used to receiving direct orders and specific instructions, being at a large campus can be especially daunting. As students they have to interact with a civilian population and be responsible for their daily activities without having a direct chain of command to follow.
The skills and abilities that veterans bring to NIU can be an asset in many ways. Their service experience may make them more self-sufficient than other students, and their leadership skills are invaluable inside and outside the classroom. Veterans shared experiences lend a unique perspective that can enhance the learning experience for all students.
Veterans shared experiences lend a unique perspective that can enhance the learning experience for all students.
During the fall 2009 semester, faculty development staff had an opportunity to meet with a group of veteran students at NIU and listen to their needs and challenges with respect to their experience at NIU. The characteristics listed below were excerpted from this meeting and from several sources that discuss the needs of veteran students in the classroom. See resources and references for more detailed information.
The veteran students who met with faculty development staff had only positive things to say about faculty, teaching, and the support services available to veterans at NIU. They especially appreciated the special support provided by the Military Student Services office at NIU. They acknowledged that they could not speak for all veterans as veterans are as diverse as any other group, but offered a number of general suggestions on improving their experience at NIU, which are identified in the next section.
Accommodating the needs of veterans does not mean that we have to drastically change how we teach. However, being aware of the issues veterans face and being accommodating to their needs can ease their transition from military life to the civilian classroom, and improve the educational experience for all students. Listed below are some issues to consider in meeting the needs of veteran students at NIU:
Expect the same classroom responsibilities and performance from veteran students as non-veteran students.
Involve veteran students, at their own comfort level, in coursework related discussions where they can share their service experiences and enrich the learning experience of all students.
Meeting the needs of NIU’s veteran students is important as NIU strives to meet the needs of all its students. Everyone will benefit from veteran students’ experiences and perspectives by welcoming them to the NIU community.
Click on the service unit name to access its home page.
Military Student Services
Campus Life Building, Room 160
The Community Counseling Training Center
Counseling and Consultation Services
Campus Life 200
Burns, B. (n.d.). Helping returning veterans transition to college. http://oregonstate.edu/veterans/documents/facpres2010.pdf
Pike, H. (2009). CCCC strives to create a ‘veteran friendly’ campus. http://www.capecod.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=cc16cfbf-4f8a-4377-945c-018ad0f6c4b7&groupId=33012
Veteran guidelines and best practices in the classroom. (2009).
York, B. (n.d.). Disability services: Helping student veterans on campus. http://www.unco.edu/enrollmentmanagement/PDF/DisabilityServicesVeterans.pdf
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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Veterans in the classroom. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide