My name is Thomas Gallegos and I am a OneStop Student Services Counselor and manager of this Parent Blog.
Veterans are vital students in our CSS community. From the classrooms to the Veterans Resource Center, we here at the college are striving to increase our hospitality to the men and women who have served our country. However, even with all our efforts, there is more that can be done to help those who have helped keep America safe.
Yesterday, I went to a presentation hosted by Veteran Dustin Oosten, counselor in the Vet Center in Duluth. With the help of Jessica Johnston, Mr. Oosten told the audience about his experience about transitioning from a military mindset to a civilian lifestyle. He reiterated that most of his message was an over-generalization and not all Vet experiences are the same, but a lot of aspects are very similar and there are triggers to be aware of when interacting with Vet students.
· Vet students have a certain amount of stress to pass classes so they don’t lose their GI Bill and have to pay out of pocket.
· Stress in the classroom can snowball because the environment is not as strict or regulated as they are used to.
· Academic papers can be a tough transition because the military teaches short, concise bullet point messages. Long papers with open-ended questions and opinion papers are much tougher as Vets tend to write short and clear.
· Their mission is to keep moving as a Vet is a very driven individual. Vets will likely try all resources before asking for help. And, even then, they may not ask for help as this is frowned upon in the military. So when/if a Vet asks you, know they sought you out as a content expert and may become frustrated if you quickly send them to someone else.
· Small group projects with lots of talking and debating and no clear decisions can be aggravating as Vets need clear orders and focused objectives.
· The mindset of a Vet varies on an intensity scale. Their intensity is higher than civilians, so they can seem confrontational, while they feel they are calm. Patience and understanding they have a trained to react to situations swiftly has to be dealt with calmly and not with hesitation or confusion.
· A vet can feel their “souls” are older; meaning while a Vet may be 25, they feel they are 35 based on their life experiences so far.
· Don’t single out or ambush a Vet with questions about his/her experiences, they might feel threatened, or triggered and react. Ask before class if they are comfortable sharing.
- Vets may locate special seats in the classroom that enable them to see the entire room and/or monitor exits.
· Realize Vets have VA appointments that cannot be missed so a flexibility is needed, but also keep them accountable as that is what they are trained for.
· Treat Vets with kindness, understanding, and most importantly respect.
Mr. Oosten reiterated that Vets are all different, and only a small percentage have severe mental/physical health issues. As a community, we are doing a great job, but as always, more can be done. The key is creating a trusting and caring environment for Vets and show you are dedicated to helping them; prove they can trust and rely in you. This is called Therapeutic Alliance. Below are a few tools/visuals which Mr. Oosten shared to help understand and interact.
Example of how a Vet feels when coming into college. This video borders on the ridiculous, but this is an idea of how a Vet feels from time to time (keep in mind this is just a generalization): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09qFkke-z18
VA Campus Toolkit with helpful tips, ideas, and resources: http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/studentveteran/#sthash.lFsUrolj.dpbs
Lastly, if you know of a veteran who is one of the few in trouble, the VA has a fabulous Veterans Crisis Line that connects with the VA clinics - 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or veteranscrisisline.net or text 838255.
If you have any questions and would like to talk to someone at St. Scholastica, feel free to call or email Jessica Johnston who is the (218) 723-6645 .
Posted by Thomas Gallegos
OneStop Student Services Counselor
The College of St. Scholastica