The benefits of having veterans in classrooms

Andrew Griffin

By Andrew Griffin
Director, The Office of Military and Veterans Affairs

Students who are military veterans are unquestionably beneficial to the higher learning environment. Yet many misconceptions remain regarding student veterans on campus and in classrooms.

It is common for student veterans to have difficulty transitioning from the military to the college campus. On the NAU campus, the average age of a student veteran is 29—about 10 years older than a freshman right out of high school and many years advanced in maturity and life’s perspectives.

Understandably, it is going to be challenging for veterans to relate to the average freshman in their classes. Additionally, many student veterans may transfer with 15 to 30 credit hours, but this may be the first resident campus they have attended, and they find it a truly a new life experience of new peers, clothing norms, language, acronyms, a less disciplined environment and unanticipated academic rigor.

On top of this, you commonly have student veterans leave the service with financial difficulties, family issues and, occasionally, with some level of post-traumatic stress disorder. These collective challenges can compound the difficulty of transitioning to the college campus.

Yet there are many advantages to student veterans seated in our classrooms. They are highly diversified student group who know what degree they want; they have tested management skills; they are resilient, mature, dedicated and will come to class and participate. They will achieve academic success and graduate. And they have the Chapter 33 GI Bill to pay for it.

So, they deserve our best.

What can faculty and administrators do to help ease the transition from military to campus life? I encourage they reach out to our student veteran center to work in collaboration toward service and support to our student veterans.