Engage veterans in class in meaningful and practical ways.
Do not rely on veteran students as the spokespeople for commentary on war or global policy, but if they choose to disclose their status and their experience, then connect their military experience to the course in practical ways. Bring their experience out in class rather than ask them to speak specifically about their experience.
Create interdepartmental collaboration.
Consider an interdepartmental veteran collaborative body that includes all veteran student services and faculty representation that would coordinate and institutionalize comprehensive veteran supports on campus. Survey campus services and student veterans to determine needs and best practices, then share information and recommend veteran-friendly systems.
Members should also collaborate to assist individual veterans and respond to requests from the overall veteran student body. While staff members who are veterans are valuable members of these boards, ensure a balance of non-veteran membership in order to expand culturally-informed approaches.
Organize and institutionalize coordinated student services for veterans.
Communities need collaborative action to meet the needs of veterans, their families, and populations within the veteran community, including women, veterans experiencing homelessness, aging veterans, students, LGBTQ+ veterans, veterans with disabilities and more.
Add veteran services into the existing organizational structure of outreach, tracking, interdepartmental coordination, orientations, and trainings for staff. All schools should make planning for non-traditional students a priority and explicitly stated in their strategic plans. And in their planning, they need to identify effective systems in place as well as targeted needs for the student veteran population.
Often, staff that advocate for veterans are not specifically designated to serve veterans, rather, they are individuals who work outside of their primary job duties to help veterans thrive. Many communities on campus rely on advocates within the institution to help them be heard. Organize staff and faculty who want to help provide a platform for veterans. These systems can emerge organically, but the administration should actively be encouraging these partnerships and creating formalized positions for these staff.
Include military-connected students in strategic plans.
While supporting veterans can be well-intentioned, formalizing the planning process will ensure that the institution calls their needs to attention. Create a committee comprised of faculty, staff, and students with ways to provide direct feedback of the services offered.
Ensure the plan incorporates tangible outcomes that go beyond making a commitment to support the veteran community. Include plans for regular staff trainings, collaboration with VRCs, and veteran events.
Provide avenues for direct feedback from veterans.
There are a lot of ways in which higher education fails student veterans from the get-go and provides no channels for veterans to provide direct communication and feedback to administration. Schools with veteran resource centers already have a place to begin developing a communication pathway to find out where challenges for student veterans are coming from and to implement necessary changes.
Creating a responsive feedback system will allow you to address necessary supports for veterans. Town halls, listening sessions, surveys, or specific office hours could be avenues for feedback. Some colleges have instituted a “jump-the-line” for student veterans who have concerns to talk to counselors; rather than waiting two weeks for a meeting, they can get a meeting within a couple days during hours that are designated for student veterans.
Make investments in veteran services transparent.
Overall, schools do not always provide information about costs and spending. Expenditures are often reported as “student services” or “institutional support,” which makes it difficult for policymakers, taxpayers, and students to understand how their tuition dollars are supporting the needs of veterans.
Providing line-item explanations of expenditures means that connections between investments and student outcomes can be attributed. Including information on student veteran retention, graduation rates, and other successes can highlight these successful outcomes and increase transparency. This is an effective strategy to recruit veterans and to demonstrate impact.