Realizing Their Strengths and Assessing Their Needs

Conference on College Composition and Communication
March 2015

In 1999, the NCTE resolved to “[a]ffirm, seek, and encourage all teachers to include a diversity of perspectives, cultures, aesthetic responses, and experiences in the teaching and learning of English language arts.” Yet, as Daniel Byman, Senior Fellow for Foreign Policy at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, observes, “many professors harbor stereotypes about the military, not recognizing the diversity of opinion within military circles on many issues and the remarkable minds of many young [military servicemembers].” In order to reflect the spirit of the NCTE resolution, this document asserts that “learning about the military, war and combat, and servicemembers’ experiences [can actually] complement a campus’s broader commitment to diversity and social understanding” (Rumann 31).

This document first identifies multiple assets student veterans often bring to writing classrooms and then acknowledges some of the special considerations that writing instructors and WPAs should take into account when working with student veterans. After presenting these generalizations, the document offers classroom instructors and WPAs some more detailed answers to the question, “What do I need to know about working with student veterans?” A list of references and further reading, organized roughly by field of study—from composition and writing studies to disability studies and student services—is provided at the end of the document. This organizational structure is meant to present a deliberate move away from deficit-model thinking about military veterans—that veterans are damaged or unprepared or otherwise problematic—to representing military servicemembers as considerable assets and sources of strength, vision, and leadership for our universities, colleges, and our society at large.

Student Veterans’ Assets
Student Veterans: Special Considerations

I’m a classroom composition instructor. What do I need to know about veterans?

I’m a writing program or writing center administrator. What do I need to know about veterans?

1 “Student veterans who were able to identify and then translate previous learning and rhetorical experiences from the military into academic writing contexts reported positive perceptions about that writing.” (Hinton)

2 It may be possible and even desirable to coordinate this training with the Veterans Services Office on campus (if there is one) and/or with the student veterans’ organization on campus (if there is one). See also Sander: “research shows that where support services for veterans exist, those students do well in the classroom.”??

References and Further Reading

Composition/Writing Studies

Dalton, Kelly Singleton. From Combat to Composition: Meeting the Needs of Military Veterans through Postsecondary Writing Pedagogy. MA Thesis. Georgetown University, 2010. Web. 26 June 2013.

Hart, D. Alexis, and Roger Thompson. “‘An Ethical Obligation’: Promising Practices for Student Veterans in College Writing Classrooms.” Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 2013. PDF file.

Hart, D. Alexis, and Roger Thompson. “War, Trauma, and the Writing Classroom: A Response to Travis Martin’s ‘Combat in the Classroom.’” Writing on the Edge 23.2 (Spring 2013): 37. Print.

Hart, D. Alexis, and Roger Thompson, eds. Composition Forum 28 (Fall 2013). Web.

Hinton, Corrine. “‘The Military Taught Me Something about Writing’: How Student Veterans Complicate the Novice-to-Expert Continuum in First-Year Composition.” Composition Forum 28 (Fall 2013). Web.

Leonhardy, Galen. “Transformations: Working with Veterans in the Composition Classroom.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College 36.4 (May 2009): 339–352. Print.

Martin, Travis. “Combat in the Classroom. A Writing and Healing Approach to Teaching Student Veterans.” Writing on the Edge 22.1 (Spring 2012): 1–9. Print.

Schell, Eileen E. “Writing with Veterans in a Community Writing Group.” Composition Forum 28
(Fall 2013). Web.

Valentino, Marilyn J. “Serving Those Who Have Served: Preparing for Student Veterans in our Writing Programs, Classes and Writing Centers.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 164–178. Print.

Disability Studies

American Council on Education. Accommodating Student Veterans with Traumatic
Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Tips for Campus Faculty and Staff
. 2011. Retrieved from [2]

Shackelford, Allan L. “Documenting the Needs of Student Veterans with Disabilities: Intersection Roadblocks, Solutions, and Legal Realities.” Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability 22.1 (2009): 36–42. Print.

Woll, P. Teaching America’s Best. Preparing Your Classrooms to Welcome Returning Veterans and Service Members. 2010. Give an Hour/National Organization on Disability. Retrieved from  [3]


American Council on Education. Veteran Success Jam: Ensuring Success for Returning Veterans. 2010. Retrieved from  [4]

Byman, Daniel L. “Veterans and Colleges Have a Lot to Offer Each Other.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 14 Dec. 2007: B5. Print.

Gann, Sarah. “There Is a Lot of Self-Reliance.” Journal of Military Experience 2.1 (2012): 211–228. Web.

Glasser, Irene, John T. Powers, and William H. Zywiak. “Military Veterans at Universities: A Case of Culture Clash.” Anthropology News 7 May 2009: 33. Print.

Military Family Research Institute. Frequently Asked Questions about the Military and Student Service Members and Veterans on Campus. 2013. Retrieved from Web.

Radford, Alexandria Walton. Military Service Members and Veterans in Higher Education: What the New GI Bill May Mean for Postsecondary Institutions. Washington, DC: American Council on Education, 2009. Web. 20 June 2013.

Sander, Libby. “When Support Services Exist, Veterans Fare Well in Class, Report Says.” Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 Nov. 2013. Web.

Steele, Jennifer, Nicholas Salcedo, and James Coley. Service Members in School: Military Veterans’ Experiences Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Pursuing Postsecondary Education. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2010. Print.

Taylor, Paul, ed. The Military-Civilian Gap: War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, 2011. Print.

Wilson, Robert M., Susan Leary, Matthew Mitchell, and Daniel Ritchie. “Military Veterans Sharing First-Person Stories of War and Homecoming: A Pathway to Social Engagement, Personal Healing, and Public Understanding of Veterans’ Issues.” Smith College Studies in Social Work 79.3 (July–December 2009): 392–432. Print.

Student Services/Student Affairs

Ackerman, Robert, David DiRamio, and Regina L. Garza Mitchell. “Transitions: Combat Veterans as College Students.” In Creating a Veteran-Friendly Campus: Strategies for Transition and Success. Ed. Robert Ackerman and David DiRamio. New Directions for Student Services 126 (Summer 2009): 5–14. Print.

Bauman, Mark. “The Mobilization and Return of Undergraduate Students Serving in theNational Guard and Reserves.” In Creating a Veteran-Friendly Campus: Strategies for Transition and Success. Ed. Robert Ackerman and David DiRamio. New Directions for Student Services 126 (Summer 2009): 15–24. Print.

Elliott, M., C. Gonzalez, and B. Larsen. “U.S. Military Veterans Transition to College: Combat, PTSD, and Alienation on Campus.” Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 48.3 (2011): 279–296. Print.

McBain, Leslie, Young M. Kim, Bryan J. Cook, and Kathy M. Snead. From Soldier to Student II: Assessing Campus Programs for Veterans and Service Members. Washington, DC: American Council on Education, 2012. Print.

Rumann, Corey B., and Florence A. Hamrick. “Supporting Student Veterans in Transition.” In Creating a Veteran-Friendly Campus: Strategies for Transition and Success. Ed. Robert Ackerman and David DiRamio. New Directions for Student Services 126 (Summer 2009): 25–34. Print.

Zinger, Lana, and Andrea Cohen. “Veterans Returning from War into the Classroom: How Can Colleges Be Better Prepared to Meet Their Needs?” Contemporary Issues in Education Research 3.1 (Jan. 2010): 39–51. Print.

This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.