A Taxonomy for Serving Veteran Students
Dr. Dion Daly doesn’t like the question “Are you a student veteran?”
“If we just ask the question that most campuses are asking — ‘Are you a veteran?’ or ‘Are you in the armed services?’ — those aren’t good questions,” says Daly, a retired Lt. Commander from the United States Navy as well as chair and associate professor of Business at D’Youville, “[Those questions] leave a lot of people out.”
For Daly and fellow co-founder of D’Youville’s Veteran and Military Affiliated Research Center (VMARC), Bonnie Fox Garrity EdD, getting to understand a student’s veteran or military-aligned status is more complex.
When most people picture a veteran student, they imagine someone with a traditional path: the person joined the military out of high school, completed their duty and came off active duty, and then “transitioned” to college. But that path implies that one life is left behind as another one begins.
“Regardless of [a veteran student’s] current status, they have not left that life behind them,” said Daly. “It is still very present and they are dealing with multiple identities, including adding being a student to their identity, but have not having ‘transitioned’ from their military life. Especially for many who might have lifelong physical, emotional, or mental struggles as a result of their service — they might never leave this behind and not ever really ‘transition’ as it would be traditionally thought of.”
Some military-aligned students may not even think of themselves as such, says Daly and Fox Garrity, pointing to sub-categories of Veterans that many times don’t consider themselves a Veteran. A military-aligned student could include: a student who is the spouse of a student veteran, a student who is a survivor who spouse died in combat, dependents of student veterans, and others.
And understanding a student’s veteran or military-aligned status is often crucial to help colleges and universities apply institutional resources to help students meet desired outcomes — academic success and, ultimately, graduation.
To help schools ensure veteran and military-aligned students succeed Daly and Garrity decided to create the Taxonomy of Student Veterans (TSV) software. The purpose was to find out where these students fit in and what their situations outside of the classroom are. “We needed to know who these students are in order to give them the best support,” said Fox Garrity.
In working on the TSV, Daly drew from his own experience in college.
“My first year, I already had a year and a half of military service. I had already been to boot camp, [attended] my school, and I was a drilling reservist. So, I know they didn’t count me as a Veteran … they did count me as a first-year student, but I had many different needs than your typical first-year student,” he recalls.
Once the student is placed into the correct category, the right resources can be put into place to help them succeed during their academic career. If that student then leaves school because they were relocated or deployed, the knowledge about the student that the TSV collected can also make it easier for them to come back to school.
Things such as withdrawing from courses, freezing tuition, or cohort programs allow students to pick up courses they may have missed. “Their life has been interrupted. When they come back they want to resume the life they left behind,” said Daly.
“The first piece is to get people to think this way. The second piece is to use the tool to help them,” added Daley.
About D’Youville’s Veterans Center
The newly remodeled Dr. William J. Mariani Veterans Center offers a space on campus that is dedicated to student veterans and their success at D’Youville. The full-time staff provides support and guidance on academic advisement, degree planning around any known deployments, tutoring and mentoring services by fellow student veteran peers, and connections to the Veterans One Stop Center of Western New York.
The Mariani Veterans Center features a computer lab with Skype-equipped computers for students to connect with friends and family who may be stationed elsewhere or overseas, as well as a lounge to let students socialize, study, and connect with one another.
The experiences, policies, and procedures that the Veterans Service Center saw helped guide the creation of the TSV. “The Veterans Center is here because we want the students to realize they belong here but that they still also belong there,” added Daly.
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