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NMSU launches Veterans on Campus training program for faculty and staff

Tiffany Acosta | The Las Cruces Sun-News

As New Mexico State University continues to see an increase in enrollment for student veterans, university officials are aware of the unique characteristics they bring to classrooms across campus.

To help educate the NMSU faculty and staff about the diverse situations student veterans and active military members may face, NMSU's Military and Veterans Programs launched an online training program called Veterans on Campus in late January.

"This training is to assist faculty and staff to work better with our student veterans and our military students," said Jacobo Varela, director of Military and Veterans Programs. "It looks at four different things — the unique value that veterans bring to campus; the obstacles they face pursuing a college degree; effective techniques in managing classroom discussions concerning veterans and veterans issues; and best practices for connecting with student veterans that might be exhibiting signs of psychological distress."

The Veterans on Campus training is available to the entire NMSU institution.

"After discussing this with several different students, we realized that faculty and staff sometimes don't understand how they should interact with veterans," he said.

Varela said in fall 2013 NMSU started exploring possible training methods. At the beginning of the following semester in January 2014, additional funds were secured from Bernadette Montoya, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and permission to purchase the program was granted.

"I think this is a fantastic opportunity to both raise awareness about our student veterans and let people know that they are in every single one of your classrooms," Varela said. "They are assets to have. They are great sources of information and knowledge, and they bring a level of maturity to the classroom that just may not be present otherwise."

The online simulation takes approximately 25 minutes to complete and doesn't have to be completed in one setting. Faculty and staff can access the training via the Center for Learning and Professional Development's website with their banner user name and password.

Varela said the Veterans on Campus training was selected for its online accessibility, flexibility and ties to the national Student Veterans of America organization.

"Since the national Student Veterans of America backed it, we looked at it seriously and decided last year this would be a great route to take," he said. "We'll be able to train for the next three years with the current license we have. It should be a great opportunity for all of NMSU to learn about our student veterans."

The Veterans on Campus program allowed for local resources to be included in the training so if a faculty or staff member needs to make a referral the contact information for many offices such as the Military and Veterans Programs office and the counseling center are listed.

"I think that if we can get our faculty and staff to really understand some of the nuances of this population it will benefit the population greatly," he said.

Varela mentioned that this training can help faculty and staff understand certain preferences that student veterans and military members may have such as not sitting in the front of the class and not asking about deployments in front of the class without discussing the matter privately first.

"I would like our faculty and staff to understand that these students aren't asking for the world. They just want a little bit of flexibility so they can be successful like any of our other students," Varela said."One of the most difficult things that people have understanding is that military and veterans have their own unique culture and they are not like the rest of the population."