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Employees Take Part in Training to Learn Ways to Effectively Serve Student Veterans

Military veterans shed light on their experiences as PCC students as part of a professional development opportunity for employees titled, “From Boots to Books.”

WINTERVILLE—A panel of military veterans shared their experiences as Pitt Community College students last week as part of a professional development workshop for faculty and staff titled, “From Boots to Books.”

The program, which featured veterans discussing the challenges they encountered transitioning from the military to higher education and the concerns they face as students, was held as part of PCC’s effort to effectively educate and support its student veteran population. The panelists were members of the college’s Student Veterans Association (SVA), which provides a network of support to military veterans on campus.

There are approximately 420 veterans and their dependents currently at PCC. Male, female, young and old, they represent every American war from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Throughout last week’s training, the veterans made certain that PCC faculty and staff knew they aren’t typical students. They said they have discipline, training and a desire to be the best students they can be.

“We are trained leaders who only want to be successful,” said Brad Robison, who surveyed fellow veterans on campus in preparation for last week’s workshop, which was co-sponsored by the college’s Veterans Affairs Office, SVA and Office of Teaching and Learning.

Robison, who served in the Marine Corps, asked instructors to be more aware of veterans on campus and the issues they face as students. He encouraged them to interact with student veterans professionally, avoid stereotypes, be aware of vet disabilities, and take time to get to know the students in their classes, since many vets are reluctant to discuss their armed services experiences.

“If a vet reaches out for assistance, please take time to lend a hand,” Robison said, adding that it is not necessary for veterans to be missing limbs in order to be disabled.

One instructor asked the panelists how to identify veterans in her class so that she could better serve them. Army veteran Chris Connolly suggested that faculty ask their students to write a short paragraph about themselves at the beginning of each semester, giving veterans an opportunity to identify themselves privately.

PCC Veterans Affairs Coordinator Sonji Rowsom said most of the feedback she received from the workshop was positive. “I think the training went well and attendance was good,” she said.

PCC Veterans Affairs Specialist Alison Trenga agreed, saying at least one attendee appreciated the heartfelt manner in which the veterans spoke.

“I think the information was helpful,” Trenga said, adding that nearly 30 faculty and staff members attended the training, which took place March 21-22.

PCC has been listed by “G.I. Jobs” magazine and militarycollegeonline.org as one of the country’s best colleges and universities in terms of offering active-duty military personnel and veterans a quality education, value and welcoming attitude. The college features an on-campus Veterans Affairs Office to help vets make a smooth transition from military service to college and ensures veterans and their dependents receive educational benefits available to them.