Two really good articles from IHE:
But I think they are both more important at a CC.
I see a lot of vets in my classes, and many of them are among my top students. But some of them face adjustment problems, and some are still in the reserve or guard with on-going time commitments that can interfere with their studies. But none of my students face the challenges of one vet who was in a colleague's class that met just before mine a year or so ago: a triple amputee. That brings the war home. Most of the vets in my classes don't stand out because older students are quite common here, but they quickly stand out because of their work ethic and leadership skills. Clearly the people behind the program at Montgomery College (Maryland) saw many of the same things:
First, the overwhelming emphasis within Combat2College is on identifying how military experience and training are positive assets that can be channeled toward the formation of attitudes and behaviors to promote success in college. Second, the program does not emphasize post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other disorders experienced by veterans of the ongoing wars. It is realistic and truthful, and notes that these are problems experienced by some veterans, and provides information regarding referral resources and positive coping skills. However, the primary focus is on assisting the veteran to explore and identify the aspects of military training and combat experience that promote personal strength and psychological resilience, and how these can be channeled toward success in college.
Focus groups with combat veterans who had already enrolled in college revealed a common theme of distress and discomfort until “connecting” with other veterans on campus.
I love the idea of building a vet learning community, because I have seen these students do some of that on their own. (It never ceases to amaze me how former Marines find each other.) They are used to working as part of a team, and would probably be more likely than our regular students to see the value in investing time in that sort of effort, an effort that much research (and my own experience) says always pays off in improved learning.
I suspect we get more than our share of these students because we are very welcoming to part time and returning students, but our support systems are nowhere near as robust as those described in the article above. I'm sure we will get a lot more if the long-overdue improved GI Bill gets passed by Congress and signed by this President ... or the next one. That makes a concerted approach all the more important.
Our faculty is about half female, which makes some of the issues raised by the study reported in IHE (which was done at a research university, UC Irvine) quite important, but one thing I did not notice in the article (or maybe just missed) is the difference in how students treat male and female faculty who do the same thing in the classroom. I know I learned a lot about that after forwarding a blog on that subject (might have been from profgrrrl, or maybe Bitch Phd or Dr Crazy) to some of my colleagues and getting an earful about their experiences.
Among other things, I learned that it is not enough to be a supporter of feminism in academia. What I might think is well-meaning advice, because it works for a guy, can be heard very differently when a woman knows it does not work for her. But once that is out of the way, it does help to communicate that support. (There is no other way that someone can learn I am supportive of their contribution to the college, since that isn't something that comes up in day-to-day interactions. It opened up some very valuable communication channels that now extend to mutual classroom observations that cross disciplinary boundaries.)
One item really made me think. We have quite a few women in management positions (pretty natural when half the faculty are women), but I had never really thought about whether that job gets devalued as a result. I don't think so, but the management style of my department chair is so different from that of men in a similar job that a comparison is almost impossible. I can see how a difference in style could lead to a perception of a difference in authority.
I guess its the "quiet" as much as the desperation that bugs me. Discussing those issues might reduce the desperation, since I'd guess that some of those issues bug men as much as women. Neither group will realize what irritants they share if it doesn't get talked about, and the lack of discussion will lead to desperation.
And that is where I celebrate many of the blogs that explore this subject, using anonymity to speak truth without fear of reprisal at work. I have learned a lot from the openness of some of the names in my blogroll, and that has had a positive effect on my ability to communicate with my colleagues.