University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Faculty & Staff Resources (overview)

Veteran Student Support Services is here to help you better understand and relate to Veterans among Illinois’ diverse student population.
A growing number of students at Illinois are Veterans of the Armed Forces. Unlike traditional university students, Veterans who attend Illinois are typically older and may exhibit higher levels of maturity, discipline, leadership, and judgment. They may also have different stressors than their younger peers—from tending to the needs of a family to commuting longer distances to class or working longer hours outside the classroom, as well as adjusting to life without the sometimes rigid structure the military provides. They face challenges similar to those of adult and non-traditional students, but with the added dimension that comes with being a Veteran. Despite these differences, student Veterans are as capable and motivated as traditional students, and they bring unique and rich experiences to the classroom.
The resources in this section are provided to help faculty and staff members enhance their understanding of the various components of the military and to outline relevant policies and procedures affecting student Veterans and military personnel at Illinois. When available, we will also provide information on these pages about scholarly research and other important data related to the student Veteran population in higher education.

 

Who is a Veteran?

In many cases, students identified as Veterans at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are those receiving Veterans educational benefits at the state or federal level, but we do not limit the use of the term or our services only to those Veterans.

Generally speaking, a Veteran is someone who has served in one of the five branches of the US Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard). The term Veteran is often applied to an individual who has honorably completed a specific term of service and has been discharged from his or her service obligation; however, the term also applies to those individuals currently serving on Active Duty, as well as those fulfilling their obligation in the Reserves or National Guard. But, there is more to who our Veterans are than this technical definition can reveal.

Veterans are often resilient and resourceful individuals who bring a variety of skills and experiences to the University. The basic military and technical training the Armed Forces provides instills service members with a strong sense of discipline and teamwork, and the multi-faceted mission of our modern military offers vast opportunities for them to apply their skills in real world situations with a workforce as diverse as any other in the civilian world, if not more.

There are “Over 150 ways to be a soldier,” proclaims a recruiting website describing US Army career fields and specialties. Taking into account all five Armed Forces branches, that means there are multiple pathways and opportunities for one to become a Veteran. Some Veterans at Illinois have completed technical training and several years of experience as translators, construction managers, infantry platoon leaders, military policemen, public affairs representatives, medics, or in technical fields related to electronics and nuclear power. While serving, Veterans were often trusted to lead personnel, manage supplies, or operate and maintain expensive technical equipment at an age when many of their peers were still underclassmen in college.

Our Veterans have lived in and immersed themselves in different cultures throughout the US and the world, from Japan to England and Korea to Germany, as well as Panama, Africa and Iceland, in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Taking into account theses skills and experiences, among many others, student Veterans are a substantial resource for enhancing classroom dialogue and bringing firsthand perspectives to course content. However, despite these strengths, Veterans face additional challenges in college—anything from struggling to overcome stereotypes that are at times, negative and grossly misrepresentative, to adjusting to life as a student after several years away, to taking on a full college course load while simultaneously meeting the adult obligations of providing for a family, to coping with the mental stresses and physical wounds of combat service.

But, as with any of the students at Illinois, to consider only the strengths and capabilities Veterans bring, or to focus only on the challenges and obstacles they face risks distorting who they are. For more on what Veterans have to offer, as well as some of the particular challenges they face both in the academic environment and in the culture at large, check our Bibliography tab where we have collected newspaper articles, opinions columns and blog posts, as well as scholarly research in this area.

 

I’m hearing a lot more about Veterans on campus. Why is that?

If you’re hearing a lot more about Veterans on campus, it’s because our office is doing its job. But, more to the point, it’s because recent changes to Veterans benefits, coupled with the incremental draw-down in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to increasing numbers of Veterans in higher education. As a consequence of this influx, Veterans have banded together to form student groups here and on campuses throughout the nation, becoming more vocal about their presence, the difficulties they face in the academic environment, and the reasons they belong in higher education.

In 2008, Congress approved an expansion of education benefits for military Veterans who have served or will serve after September 11, 2001. Commonly known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, this program is expected to surge Veteran student enrollment over the next decade, and the University of Illinois is among the many institutions working to address important questions about Veterans’ needs and the ways viable support services can be structured accordingly.

We anticipate that you’ll continue to hear more and more about Veteran students in the coming years, and we’re here to help whenever you have questions or need more information about this growing student population.

 

Who can I contact if I have a question regarding one of my students who is a Veteran?

If you have any questions or concerns about student Veterans in your classroom, please contact the Veteran Student Services Coordinator at (217) 333-0050 or via e-mail.

 

What should I do if one of my students has to miss class due to military service?

Many student Veterans at UIUC are still fulfilling service obligations either in the Active Duty, Reserves, or National Guard. The Campus Code of Policies and Regulations provides accommodation for these students in the event they are mobilized or receive orders that incidentally conflict with their course schedules.

Faculty and Staff who work with student Veterans are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the relevant Campus Code of Policies and Regulations as well as the checklist Veteran Student Support Services has created to guide students through relevant procedures.
Contact the Veteran Student Services Coordinator at (217) 333-0050 or via e-mail if you have any questions.

 

Where can I find scholarly articles and resources regarding Veterans in higher education?

Veteran Student Support Services has begun compiling a bibliography of scholarly works available on topics related to Veterans in higher education. Other sources of information and research related to Veterans issues may be available through the government and nonprofit organization websites listed below.

 

Can you recommend best practices for working with Veterans in the classroom?

The unique circumstances and non-traditional backgrounds student Veterans bring to the University sometimes create challenges and potential sources of conflict or discomfort for both the Veteran and the University employee. Our office is constantly on the lookout for resources and guidelines to help Faculty and Staff effectively engage student Veterans and understand their needs, expectations, and points-of-view.

One such resource is a document that The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs developed to provide insights and guidelines for working with student Veterans in the classroom: Veteran Guidelines and Best Practices in the Classroom (downloadable PDF, used with author’s permission).

As new resources and best practices come to light, Veteran Student Support Services will make them available on this site under the Bibliography tab.

 

How can I get involved with Veteran-centered events on campus?

If you are a Veteran yourself or would simply like to be more informed or involved in Veterans-centered events on campus, the Veteran Student Support Services office would like to hear from you. There are a number of ways you can get involved.

  • Join our mailing list. Our office maintains a Listserv email list of Faculty and Staff who have expressed an interest in supporting Veterans-centered events or learning more about Veterans-related news and information to pass on to their students and colleagues. Contact us to be added to the list.
  • Join Illini Veterans, a Registered Student Organization and a chapter of the Student Veterans of America. This RSO frequently hosts events for student Veterans and their supporters on campus (non-veteran students, faculty, staff and non-student Veterans). Contact Illini Veterans to be added to their Listserv or find them on Facebook and Twitter.
  • The MBA Military Association (MVA) assists military MBAs with their transition to school and provides professional development opportunities to facilitate career search, interview, and hire. Contact the MVA president to get involved or to learn more.
  • We are still developing the News and Events sections of this website, but check back often to see what’s going on with Veteran Student Support Services around campus. Also, we will be launching Facebook and Twitter accounts where you can “like” or “follow” us to stay informed.