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Thank Them for Their Service…If They Want to be Thanked

This was my first year attending the Teaching and Learning Conference (TLC), and I was pleasantly surprised to see a focus on military-affiliated students. As this is my field, and passion, I quickly narrowed in on the presentation (Instructors Field Guide to Working with our Military) presented by Molly Molnar and Becky Campbell which focused on how faculty members can support military-affiliated students in the classroom. In their presentation they brought up the idea that some military students may chose not to disclose they are military-affiliated for fear of how they will be treated. This brought to mind a story my husband told me about during his time at an institution (that will not be named), and a specific interaction he had with an instructor who discovered he is a Marine Veteran. The instructor took it upon herself to call this fact out to the entire class, essentially putting my husband on the spot. The instructor also proceeded to discuss her own political views on war and military service members. To this day, my husband remembers this interaction as disconcerting and completely inappropriate. This is a prime example of how NOT to treat our military-affiliated students in the classroom.

The presentation did a fantastic job touching on the fact that some military-affiliated students may want to openly recall their time in the service, and some others may not want to disclose any affiliation at all. This is an especially important point for faculty to pick up on and provides a guide for how faculty can mirror their own level of engagement around that student’s desire to share about his or her military service. If the student seems open to discuss and provide details, that is great – the journey is different for everyone. However, it is important to remember not to prod military-affiliated students on the other end of the spectrum who don’t seem as open to the conversation around their service.

Lastly, I just wanted to touch on students’ who do disclose they are service connected or veteran and how to show appreciation. The phrase “thank you for your service” has become oversaturated and many military students may actually recoil from those words. A few years ago, during military appreciation month, a great article was posted on alternative options for recognizing military personnel. I encourage individuals to read this article and follow some of the recognition tips provided as a way to acknowledge military students.

Overall the military panel at TLC was very insightful and provided great resources for not just faculty but all staff.

Stephanie Cowsert

Associate Vice President, Financial Aid Policy & Compliance

Ashford University / Financial Aid and Military Services


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