Educating on education

The American Legion, Student Veterans of America and the Vietnam Veterans Institute will host the "Veterans on Campus" education symposium Feb. 28 at the Renaissance Washington D.C. Hotel. The afternoon event will feature five hours of panel discussions by student veterans, congressional staff, campus experts, and representatives from veterans service organizations. Those wishing to attend the symposium can register online (event code: 5CNS2CZTF8K).

According to co-sponsor J. Eldon Yates, chairman and founder of the Vietnam Veterans Institute, the symposium grew from a book about veterans' experiences as college students.

"Early in 2009, Douglas Herrmann - an Indiana State University emeritus professor and Vietnam veteran - consulted me while he and three colleagues were writing a book about veterans on campus," Yates said. "After reading their draft manuscript, I was astonished to learn that, in some cases, today's veterans are facing many of the same stigmas and stereotypes that dispirited Vietnam veterans. I eventually discussed these problems with The American Legion, and this symposium is the result of those conversations."

American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill said the event focuses on returning veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now using their education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"The idea is to get student veterans and those who work with them in the academic realm to sit down together and discuss how to best meet the unique needs of veterans on campus," Hill said. "The American Legion and other veterans service organizations will also be contributing to the dialogue."

Joe Sharpe, director of the Legion's National Economic Division, emphasized the value of student veterans in academic discourse. "It seems only logical that any discussion of the military, political, historical and philosophical aspects of our country's external conflicts should include the points of view of those who have served in those conflicts, and witnessed them first-hand," he said. "Veteran students should not be viewed as strangers in the classroom, but valuable educational resources."

The role of veterans in classroom dynamics will be discussed by a panel of student veterans from Georgetown, George Washington and American universities. Aides from the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees will hold a panel discussion on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and what amendments to the legislation are being considered to bolster its effectiveness. In another session, representatives from veterans service organizations and the academic community will explore collaborative efforts to nurture veteran-friendly campuses. Other experts from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense will discuss the transition process from military to campus life.

Symposium co-sponsor Derek Blumke, president of the Student Veterans of America, said he was inspired to see veterans of previous wars support Iraq/Afghanistan veterans going to college after serving their country. "With The American Legion and other veterans organizations supporting these returning student veterans, there is no doubt that this generation of veterans will become the future educators, scientists and leaders of our nation," he said.

For more information on the symposium, contact Bob Madden at The American Legion: (202) 263-5773.

Click here to view the Veterans on Campus agenda.