WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

Professors Aid Veterans From Service To Classroom

Play associated audio
Professors in Virginia have taken on a special project to help veterans transition from the service to the classroom.
Michael Wyszomierski: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wysz/73000961/
Professors in Virginia have taken on a special project to help veterans transition from the service to the classroom.

Virginia Military Institute professors Alexis Hart and Roger Thompson have taken on a special project to help veterans transition from the service to the classroom. But each arrived at their project from different paths.

"I was the first woman assigned to an amphibious assault ship in the U.S. Navy," says Alexis Hart, a veteran.

Roger Thompson, however, was an academic, completely detached from the war, until he began a correspondence with a former student who was fighting in Iraq.

"Here's this former student of mine, fighting a war, doing this amazing work, and I'm digging in the papers of Ralph Waldo Emerson and wondering, you know, who's really doing real work here," says Thompson.

This bridge between academia and military service is exactly what Thompson and Hart are after. They're traveling the country, coaching professors on how to welcome and support veterans. During their training sessions, the two teachers hear a lot of stories about veterans in the classroom, but there's one story that's told everywhere they go: veterans bring maturity and discipline to their classes.

"On the one hand, the veteran is lifting up the stereotypical freshman college-type student, coming from privilege and may not be taking it seriously, says Thompson. "On the other hand, the veteran is himself or herself, learning that some of the kind of rigidity that he or she may approach learning may be best to kind of give way a little bit."

Hart agrees with Thompson that the relationship between veterans and traditional students is a two-way street.

"So many stories of the value of having a veteran in the class, someone who says, 'Look, put away your phone, the professor's talking,' or who says, 'Hey, let's take a minute and think about what's really important here.' When that is happening both ways, and really with professors too, professors, other classmates and the veteran, when they're working in synchronicity, that's really powerful."

Thompson and Hart say that getting veterans into classrooms is about more than academics. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made Americans acutely aware of invisible war wounds, like brain damage and post-traumatic stress disorder. Thompson and Hart believe that writing in classrooms can help heal those invisible wounds.

"Veterans are writing their stories," says Hart. "They're writing them down. The very nature of writing itself has been very, very powerful for so many students."

"Writing can heal, can transform lives, and I've been humbled," says Thompson.


Sandra Cisneros Crosses Borders And Boundaries In 'A House Of My Own'

The author's new memoir collects three decades worth of her journeys in search of a sense of home. "I guess I didn't realize I was gonna be crossing borders my whole life," she says.

For Israeli-Born Chef, Hummus And 'Tehina' Are A Bridge To Home

Chef Michael Solomonov sees his mission as connecting people to the food of his homeland. "That, to me, is my life's work," he says. Solomonov's new cookbook is Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.

Inside The Message Machine That Could Make Politicians More Persuasive

A political scientist identified optimally persuasive terms that make people more inclined to support the health care act. He says the tool could someday make it easier to sharpen political messages.

FAA Proposes Record Fine Against Drone Operator

The FAA is proposing a nearly $2 million fine against a drone operator it says was operating outside the rules and endangering safety. NPR talks to the head of the FAA about what's behind the hefty penalty.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.