Recognizing Women Student Veterans and Service Members on Campus
Women have played integral roles in the history of our nation's military and in March, Women's History Month, we remember and recognize the many achievements of women and women in the military. As more women veterans and service members enroll in higher education, it is imperative that campuses provide essential support, recognition, and necessary services. More research and data on supporting women student veterans and service members is essential.
Sophie Cieslicki, a M.S. candidate in college student affairs at Eastern Illinois University studying female student service member's higher education and military transitions, considers the lack of recognition on campus, accessibility to resources, and increasing communication and awareness of campus services the most pressing issues facing women student veterans and service members today. Cieslicki notes that the landscape of research on women veterans and female student service members is, at this point in time, not very robust and it can be challenging to find research that focuses primarily on women student veterans and female service members.
When it comes to recognizing the differences in experiences for female versus male student veterans and services members, Cieslicki notes that female veterans and service members face different struggles in managing family relationships, marital relationships, and mental health. Cieslicki addresses that stigmas against utilizing mental health resources and stereotypes faced by female service members in the military may negatively affect mental health needs.
To better serve women student veterans and service members higher education institutions should "...provide formal training for staff and faculty on how to interact with these populations, not just female veterans or student service members, but any and all. Just understanding their experiences, and the transitions that they make, and how unique this population is and the struggles that they face is really important" Cieslicki affirms.
When considering the needs of women student veterans and service members specifically, Cieslicki discloses that, "...many are also managing family and kids at home and...on top of that...managing their military responsibilities whether it be active duty or National Guard, and then education on top of that too." Faculty and staff working with women student veterans and service members should recognize that the responsibilities of women veterans and service members can be three-fold, or more.
In Cieslicki's recent study, women veterans and service members shared various initial motivations to pursue higher education, "...most of my participants wanted to have a higher education degree but found difficulty in financing it without the military, so that aspect was very helpful for them to pursue a higher education degree. Also, they faced external motivations such as military rank structure. You have to have a bachelor's degree to obtain certain officer positions. And family motivations, like their parents had higher education degrees, so they saw that as motivation to pursue one as well."
Cieslicki aims to stay in higher education after completing her degree and utilize her research and to continue supporting student veterans and service members. For anyone looking to support student veterans in higher education, through pursuing a graduate degree or other means, Cieslicki advises, "Educating yourself about their experiences is really important and also connecting with campus resources, we have the military student assistance center that I connected with throughout my research and that was really helpful."
For more reading regarding women student veterans and female student service members Cieslicki recommends: "The Many Faces of Military Families: Unique Features of the Lives of Female Service Members," "A Tale of Two Transitions: Female Military Veterans During Their First Year at Community College," and also credits fellow Eastern Illinois University alumnus Doug Michael's Master's Thesis, "Female Student Veteran's Transition to College."How does your institution serve and support women student veterans and service members? Have you recognized this population for Women's History Month? Serving and supporting women student veterans and service members on campus starts with recognition.