More than 'thank you for your service': Arizona State program aims to narrow military-civilian gap
18-credit hour certification to prepare students for wide range of service careers
Tempe, Ariz., February 23, 2018 – A first of its kind 18-credit program aimed at narrowing the military-civilian gap by educating students about American veterans is expected to launch during the upcoming fall semester here, Arizona State University officials announced this week.
Enrollment started Thursday for "Veterans, Society and Service," ASU's first undergraduate certificate dedicated solely to the study of veterans, military culture and how it relates to society.
"The media is flooded with representations of veterans as either homeless 'head cases,' or as heroes who are placed on a pedestal," said Mark von Hagen, history professor and the director of ASU's Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement. "Both are shallow binary portrayals, rendering society unable to make space for conversation.
"'Thank you for your service' is a cheap, throwaway line but it's really not enough," von Hagen said. "It's a meaningless gesture unless you follow it up with something more significant."
Von Hagen and a group of ASU professors are proposing something very significant with the new certificate. The program takes an interdisciplinary approach on new core tensions and deep-rooted issues regarding how the wider culture understands and supports today's all-volunteer, post 9/11 military force in order to develop new bonds and understandings.
The OVMAE proposed this new field of academic study, which will be housed under ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Thirteen faculty from nine departments and schools plus five community partnerships have committed for the first year of the certificate program. The project structure will be comprised of four required courses, an internship or capstone project, and electives. Organizers are also hopeful that veterans are willing to share their experiences.
"We want as many veterans in our classes to enable them to be teachers while they are students," said Nancy Dallett, associate director with OVMAE. "It should also be a nice mix of veterans and civilians so they get an idea of the ethos of the people who want to serve our country."
Dallett said the certificate program will combine the disciplines of history, literature, law, ethics, politics, psychology, sociology and the arts. The intent is to give students a transferable set of skills to prepare them for careers in veterans affairs, public policy, non-profits, criminal justice, humanities, STEM education and even journalism.
"Many corporations today are initiating veteran hiring initiatives," said Steve Borden, director of ASU's Pat Tillman Veterans Center. "Veteran success in the workplace, retention of hired veterans as well as their career progression, is predicated upon developing a greater understanding of the difference between our military and civilian cultures."
Matthew Delmont, a professor of history and director of ASU's School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, said he also wanted to give back to veterans.
"The United States has been at war for most of our students' lifetimes, yet fewer than 1 percent of Americans serve in the military," said Delmont, who will be teaching a course on World War II. "Given this, it is crucially important that we support veteran students and that we make veteran studies as central part of the academic experience of many more ASU students."
Census figures from 2015 and 2016 estimate there are now approximately 18.5 million veterans nationwide, 600,000 of whom reside in Arizona. ASU currently enrolls more than 7,300 active military, veterans and military family members, making the university a top choice and leader among the nation's most military-friendly schools.
(Marshall Terrill / ASU Now)
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