Student veterans look for space to gatherMilitary veterans attending North Dakota State University say more staffing and a space they can gather on campus could smooth the transition from the armed forces to academia. Four veterans shared their experiences in a “Students as Veterans” panel discussion Tuesday at the Memorial Union.
By: By Helmut Schmidt, Forum Communications Co. , The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Military veterans attending North Dakota State University say more staffing and a space they can gather on campus could smooth the transition from the armed forces to academia.
Four veterans shared their experiences in a “Students as Veterans” panel discussion Tuesday at the Memorial Union.
Each had challenges that are not unusual for vets, said Kara Gravley-Stack, the university’s diversity center coordinator.
They’re transitioning to civilian life from the structure of the military.
Many are older than average and balance work, family and school.
Others have financial aid issues or must adjust to active duty call-ups.
Some simply find it “hard to feel a connection to campus when they’re sitting in class next to someone who just graduated from high school,” Gravley-Stack said.
Justin Grams, an assistant director of admissions at NDSU, graduated as a Bison and served nine years in the Minnesota Army National Guard.
Grams, who spent a year in Iraq refueling helicopters, said NDSU needs more resources for its roughly 250 veterans. He contrasted NDSU with the University of Minnesota.
While the U of M is four times as large as NDSU, it has only twice the number of veterans, Grams said. But U of M has several more staff people helping vets. They also have a veterans’ student center, he said.
Dave Hagberg, a junior who served as a Marine in the first Iraq War in 1991, and Jerome Billups, who served 22 years in the Air Force, both agree NDSU needs a dedicated space for vets to gather.
Hagberg suffered a brain injury while in the service, which leaves him dealing with short-term memory loss, forcing him to study harder to retain anything.
He said some staff have been outstanding in helping him get through classes, but others could use more training to recognize when a vet needs help.
Billups found he had to learn to adjust to his peers. He said he had some difficulty working with young people in small groups, mainly because he was used to a sharper focus on tasks in the military.
Billups also would like to see vets get college credit for their experience. And he really doesn’t like being treated like he’s 18 again.
“That’s very frustrating,” Billups said.
Dan Doyscher, a freshman transfer student, is easing back into school on a part-time basis, after serving in the Army in Afghanistan.
Doyscher said he was learning to open up and “communicate with people again, exploring my life.”
He encourages vets at the school to join the NDSU Veterans Association.
“If we had more participation, we could do other things for veterans,” Doyscher said.
Helmut Schmidt is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.