Military veterans share many experiences, from induction to discharge and everything in between.
At Collin College, beginning next term, they can find still more common ground by taking courses where they’re surrounded by veterans.
Joining a national trend toward making higher education vet-friendly, the two-year school’s Frisco campus will offer veterans first crack at one section each of history, political science, psychology and speech.
The expectation is they’ll fill every seat, creating veterans-only classes.
"We’ll pilot this and see how it goes," said Barbara Coan, dean of academic affairs for the Frisco campus.
Mason Chance, a Marine Corps veteran, is among those who’ve seen posters around campus for the courses. He plans to take all four.
Chance, 24, said he’s comfortable with young college students who have no military background. But when they find out he did a tour in Iraq, they tend to ask how many people he killed.
"That’s pretty much the last question you’d hear from a veteran," he said. "The topic would never come up."
Chance wants to take classes with veterans not only for the quick camaraderie, but also to offer support. About two weeks ago, a service friend of his killed himself, and Chance said post-traumatic stress disorder is believed to have been a factor.
Two of Chance’s other military friends are in counseling.
"You’ve got some people coming back and having a real hard time re-integrating," said Chance, who plans to be a police officer. "For them, there’s nothing better than hanging out with service veterans that have been out for a bit."
GI Bill advantages
With the recession making jobs scarce, and a post-9/11 GI Bill that offers generous education benefits, veterans are increasingly common on campus. Collin College has more than 500 veterans registered this term at its various campuses, a 20 percent increase from last fall.
Many schools are rolling out the welcome mat, and not just out of gratitude for veterans’ service. The GI Bill keeps tuition dollars flowing.
"The first motivation obviously is financial for schools," said Matthew Pavelek, senior editor of G.I. Jobs magazine. "The monetary value that’s there makes [veterans] attractive students."
Nationwide, colleges have tried various ways to ease the transition for veterans, including adding counselors, special orientation sessions, and, in the case of Cleveland State University and a few other schools, veterans-only classes.
Coan said she learned about such classes from reading a higher education journal and attending conferences. She got the green light from top Collin College administrators to do her own version.
She quickly found professors, each with a connection to the military.
Professors suited to job
Nick Morgan, the political science professor, was an Army captain. Regina Hughes, the psychology professor, is a self-professed military brat, having grown up on several Air Force bases as her dad got transferred.
Meredith Martin, who will teach the post-Civil War U.S. history class, oversees a veterans oral history project. Speech professor Kim Parker has a son in the Marines.
They all say they didn’t have to be drafted to teach courses for veterans.
"I volunteered to the point of insisting," Parker said.
The professors vary in how they plan to teach a course for veterans. Morgan is on the aggressive end, saying he wants to ground each segment of his course in the military experience.
When the class is studying the legislative process, it’ll look at bills affecting veterans. In the media section, students will compare coverage of the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
By contrast, Hughes plans to sound the veterans out early on how tailored they want the psychology course to be. If they want special emphasis on post-traumatic stress disorder, fine.
But she’s not assuming that.
"What I do assume is that they have a very unique cohort experience that will bring rich discussion to the classroom," Hughes said.
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