Guest Blogger: Tillman Military Scholar Inaugural Class, University of Maryland
As any Tillman Military Scholar can tell you, the transition from servicemember to student isn’t always an easy one. Foregoing the difficult but often constant rigors of military life, not to mention leaving behind close-knit relationships forged through shared hardships in favor of academic pursuits, can leave veterans struggling to cope with their new identities. Feelings of alienation manifest, negatively affecting the veteran’s performance in the classroom.
While those in the veteran community can relate, the sentiment is often lost among college administrations trying to discover the difficulties veterans experience when making the transition from combat to college.
Fortunately, groups across the country are making efforts to increase understanding of the veteran’s campus experience. On Thursday, December 9th, three Tillman Military Scholars participated in such an effort.
Antoinette Bardunias, Elizabeth O’Herrin and Rich Blake traveled from their respective universities along the east coast to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to serve as veteran panelists for the Mid-Atlantic Career Counseling Association (MACCA) “Combat to College” discussion at the group’s 40th Annual Conference. For two hours, the scholars answered questions from an audience of guidance counselors, offering valuable insight into the difficulties they experienced transitioning from the military to college.
“It was extremely rewarding to be a part of the Combat to College panel and see so many wonderfully, compassionate people not only acknowledging the difficulties of veterans returning to school, but making efforts to better their transitions,” said Antoinette. “I hope that future panels will be held and more schools will become involved.”
Elizabeth commented: “Career counselors are in a position to provide a lot of help to veterans both while they are in school, and as they transition from school to civilian jobs. It was great to be able to talk with them about the strengths and experiences of veterans on their campuses. I think the vast majority of campus administrators and faculty have the best interests of veterans at heart, and it was great to be able share my experience with them.”
Rose Howard, the MACCA Vice-President and conference coordinator, was so impressed by the Scholars’ presentation that she’s inviting the them to participate in another panel in March 2011.
“The Combat-to-College Panel at the Mid-Atlantic Career Counselors Association conference was a great opportunity to put the transitioning veterans’ story into the hands of professionals on the frontlines of veteran reintegration,” said Rich. “Understanding how to use the individual military experience to guide the veteran in their pursuit of higher education is crucial to ensure that veterans choose a career track that is aligned with their interests and experiences.”