On August 16, 2017 at the UC Berkeley Alumni House, Swords to Plowshares held an all-day event centered on veteran achievement in higher education and the supportive services that make them possible. The Cal Veteran Services Center graciously hosted the event, with attendees from various campuses throughout California.
During the event, Swords to Plowshares presented their initial research findings from recent student veteran focus groups and distributed materials for colleges to assess their current support systems on campus. Additionally, the floor was opened to discuss collaborative efforts in our respective communities. The range of experiences in the audience made it clear to everyone in attendance that potential allies could form a coalition of advocates in higher education to address similar issues on their respective campuses. Working toward a common goal further improves the likelihood that student veterans will succeed in their educational pursuits.
Among the key findings discussed, two areas of study generated possible solutions to bring back to campuses: housing and mental health services.
On the topic of housing, one attendee mentioned that student homelessness was as high as 12% on her campus in the Sacramento area, with many veterans impacted. To address this, the university was able to secure emergency housing for students, as well as establishing a fund to pay for housing stipends. The university was also working on a voucher system for hotel stays when students are in immediate need. They are also working to establish a veteran specific housing fund. The suggestion was seen as good practice that could be applied to any student group demonstrating housing instability.
A second area that generated interest was the colocation of mental health services in on-campus veteran resource centers. The benefit of the colocation is that students could seek informational services, benefits-related services associated to the GI Bill, and therapy in one, culturally competent place. Student veterans have the opportunity to build camaraderie in a community of peers. This prevents isolation, the availability of treatment on site, reduces stigma and normalizes seeking mental healthcare.
A full report of the findings of our Bay Area student veteran focus groups will be available in November 2017.
For more information on our student veteran research, please contact Victor Inzunza at firstname.lastname@example.org.