Last Spring, the Military and Veterans Resource Center (MAVRC) purchased an online training program designed to educate staff and students about the needs and experiences of student veterans during their transition from military to civilian life.
The training is a 30-minute online interactive program consisting of avatar-based role play conversations designed to demonstrate the appropriate ways for faculty and staff to identify, approach and refer a veteran exhibiting signs of psychological stress.
UWM currently has over 1,200 veterans enrolled; that’s more than any other college in a six state radius.
Mike Kirchner, director of MAVRC, advocated for bringing the program to UWM because he felt the program would help the university better meet the standards of the Principles of Excellence.
The Principles of excellence is a set of guidelines that any University receiving federal dollars to support veterans and their education must follow. One of these guidelines being that universities are required to make accommodations for service members when they are called for duty.
“Military service is not just a job. You don’t have the option to take off of work that day. If you’re called to duty; if you have training, then you’re expected to be there,” says Kirchner, adding that, “most of our faculty are very flexible.” However he did say he has had student veterans come to the MAVRC voicing concerns about a lack of accommodations, and understanding of the process military personnel go through during their transition back to civilian life.
Kirchner cites a lack of civilian understanding of military culture and experiences as an issue facing veterans as they make the transition back to civilian life.
Kirchner says “[When] you feel like the outsider, that just compounds the uncomfortability of going back to the classroom.”
“Not all Vets have PTSD” says Kirchner, “the program helps you identify who is having a hard time, and how to approach them.”
On Nov. 2, the Student Association passed a resolution designed to encourage faculty and staff to participate in the program. As well as oversee the proper implementation of the program.
Student Senator Rebecca Patterson introduced the bill and spearheaded the discussion in the senate.
Patterson says that the MAVRC plans to open the program up in January.
“We hope to have a 100 percent faculty and staff completion rate by the following January when it will expire,” says Patterson.
“Once participated in this program, whole departments or even professors can be stamped with a veteran friendly designation,” says Annabelle Arney, Student Org. Advocacy Senator.