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OU Green Zone: Providing student veterans a warm welcome

Hundreds of faculty and staff members at the University of Oklahoma have taken training to better understand veterans and their needs.
by Kathryn McNutt Published: July 13, 2014
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The Green Zone on the University of Oklahoma campus is not a place, but a network of faculty and staff who volunteer to provide specialized assistance for those students who have served in the military.

It started about two years ago as a project of the volunteer group Veteran Support Alliance.

In the beginning, it was just a list of tips how to best serve student veterans, said Jennifer Trimmer, veteran student services coordinator.

Then last fall, OU Green Zone began offering workshops to train interested faculty and staff. Trimmer was hoping to train 100 Green Zone volunteers across campus.

Today there are four times that many and counting. Each one displays a sticker at his or her office to signify “this is someone who knows a little bit more” about veterans’ needs, Trimmer said.

One of the four workshops presented was recorded so faculty and staff now can take the training online. Additional live workshops will be offered to provide updated information as needed, Trimmer said.

Life experiences

Most veterans at OU are four to six years older than the average student, political science professor Shad Satterthwaite said.

“If they have been deployed, their life experiences are going to be vastly different,” said Satterthwaite, faculty sponsor of the Student Veterans Association and a member of the Oklahoma National Guard who deployed to Afghanistan in 2003-04 and again in 2011-12.

“I think it’s a benefit. They enhance the discussion in class.”

But they may need help adjusting to the academic life, and often are reluctant to ask for help when they need it, Satterthwaite said.

It can be a challenge to go from “very scheduled, long days” in the military to what seems to be a lot of free time at college, he said.

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by Kathryn McNutt
Higher Education Reporter
Kathryn McNutt covers higher education for The Oklahoman and NewsOK. Since joining the staff in August 2000, she also has worked as the Breaking News editor, Metro editor and assistant Local editor. A native of Oklahoma City, she graduated from...
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Tips for student veterans

Realize veterans are nontraditional students, a special population of financially independent adults often juggling family, work and studies.

Be aware that not all the veterans in your classroom are male. More women are serving and are experiencing firsthand the traumas of war.

Veterans generally possess discipline, structure and a strong work ethic. The U.S. military teaches team connection and completion skills.

With sensitivity on the instructor’s part, veteran life experiences become assets, adding to the diversity of perspectives represented in classrooms.

A secured classroom can provide a feeling of safety. Veterans may be sensitive to triggers such as surprises, loud noises and chaos.

Veterans may be reluctant to talk about their military experiences. Conversely, some may inadvertently dominate class discussions, in which cases boundaries for the nature and quantity of class participation need to be set, preferably in private.

Don’t try to relate to experiences that you don’t share. If you haven’t been in combat, don’t pretend that you understand what it or its aftermath is like.

Keep the syllabus (mission) clear with specific tasks and dates. Be available for assistance and added support or referral. Veterans may not admit when they are struggling.

Source: OU Green Zone

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