Thursday, November 21, 2013

UNC Charlotte Conference on Student-Veteran Transition Draws More than 200

By Latricia Boone

This week, UNC Charlotte hosted its first-ever full-day conference focused on increasing cultural sensitivity as it relates to student veterans and how best to support their success as they assimilate into the college environment. The conference, Boots to Books: Understanding Military Culture and Supporting a Successful Transition, drew more than 200 individuals from the campus and greater Charlotte community.

College of Health & Human Services Dean
Nancy Fey-Yensan welcomed attendees
At the heart of UNC Charlotte’s founding, supporting student veterans has long been part of the University culture and its commitment as a military friendly institution. Over the years, the University has underscored this commitment by investing in the necessary resources to better serve the needs of student veterans and their families.

This week’s event was another opportunity to engage the larger community and share information and resources as well as hear from student veterans on what their experience has been and how they would like to be supported. Currently, about 800 UNC Charlotte students are using some form of military benefits to pay for their education. The conference brought national and local speakers and included a panel discussion with current students who are veterans.

As part of the panel discussion, the students’ shared their unique perspectives and talked about the successes and challenges they’ve faced transitioning from military culture to college life. Hearing from the students, it became clear that not only is the University playing an integral role in their success but these students, who bring very unique experiences and skill sets, play an integral role in the University -- from student life to academic endeavors to their intellectual contribution both in and out of the classroom.

While each panelist came from different walks of life and brought different perspectives, they all emphasized how the University’s support has helped to ease their transition. The University’s Office of Student Veterans Services (VSSO) has played an important role in those efforts. The VSSO provides one-on-one consultations for student veterans and collaborates with community organizations to better serve and bring awareness of veteran challenges, both on campus and in the larger community.
Student-veterans discussed transitions from military to campus

Allison Jenner, assistant director for Veteran Student Services, gave an informative presentation on the role of the VSSO and how the office not only supports students, but also faculty, in terms of their knowledge and understanding of how to best communicate and engage with their veteran students. Jenner’s presentation also discussed strategies for success across the University and touched on common misconceptions, such as what it means to have post traumatic distress order (PSTD) and how to best communicate with those who do. The student panelists and speakers emphasized the fact that not all student veterans suffer from PSTD but even those who do can acclimate successfully with the right support systems in place.  

In addition to speakers and the panel, attendees took part in a “support services” vendor fair and an art exhibit highlighting the work of Robert Bates, a veteran and student at the University.

Funded by a grant from the UNC Charlotte Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund, Boots to Books was sponsored by the College of Health and Human Services’ Department of Social Work in partnership with the UNC Charlotte Office of Veterans Student Services, Mecklenburg County Community Support Services, and Charlotte Bridge Home. 

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Latricia Bone is the communications director for the Colleges of Education and Health & Human Services

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