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Some discussions I've seen and in which I've participated on DailyKos have dealt with girls' and women's experiences related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics  (STEM) education and careers, such as blueisland's and shiobe's. Another diary that is relevant to this discussion, from my perspective, is by 8ackgr0und N015e, which reconsiders the Equal Rights Amendment through the lens of women's ongoing, though now formalized, participation in combat. I've been writing here about Post-Traumatic Growth as it relates to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These topics are not unrelated, as I hope you will discover should you continue reading.

In April of 2009, the National Science Foundation (NSF) facilitated a conversation that needed to take place, which perhaps should already be a part of mainstream discussion among the U.S. education community. On April 13 - 14, 2009, NSF sponsored a workshop that led to the release of a 25-page report Veterans' Education for Engineering and Science focusing on military veterans' increasing future involvement in STEM, in light of enactment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33). With the drawdown of troops from the wars, eventual budget cuts that will result in declining troop strength across the services, and vast numbers of Active Duty servicemembers returning to civilian life, the billions of dollars available to them through Chapter 33 can represent a vital investment in the nation's future.

First, the NSF report recognizes the nation's past, ongoing and prospective future deficiencies in producing sufficient numbers of qualified individuals to enter and succeed as STEM academic and industrial workforce candidates. Then, it delineates those attributes military veterans possess that could position them to become a major part of the solution to the problem of U.S. performance deficits in STEM education, training and employment. These qualities include technical aptitudes and orientation (complimented by their military training) and potential interest in STEM fields, maturity and experience that potentially set them apart from their peers, and existing educational attainment that actually puts them above many of their peers (93 percent high school graduates and 6 percent with GEDs). Add to these factors the ethnic, cultural and gender diversity in the current U.S. military services (30 percent minorities, 14 percent women, and 10 percent Hispanic), as well as the fact that 98 percent are U.S. citizens, with the rest becoming citizens through expedited processes, and the picture of veterans' potential impact on STEM becomes clearer. Many higher education administrators are intimately aware of the nation's historic struggle to produce and retain STEM majors domestically, as well as the nation's ongoing underrepresentation of women and minorities in the STEM education and industrial marketplaces, which make these data even more intriguing.

NSF is not the only national organization that has realized and promoted military veterans' potential for success in STEM education, research, and career orientation. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) published a series of articles in 2008 in its Science Careers publication under the banner "Special: Student Veterans Come Marching Home.". These articles included "Student-Veterans Come Marching Home: Their Return to Studies"  and "Student-Veterans Come Marching Home: A New GI Bill for Scientists."

Although the NSF and AAAS documents are of less currency relative to their focus on the advent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is now in full force, what they say about the qualities veterans possess and their potential impact on STEM education and the workforce remains crucial. In "A New GI Bill for Scientists," for example, we learn that the World War II-era GI Bill

influenced American science and technology, by helping to contribute to the U.S. workforce 91,000 scientists and 450,000 engineers [who] studied with GI Bill benefits after World War II, including 14 Nobel Prize winners in science.
These observations came from Edward Humes' book, Over Here: How the G.I. Bill Transformed the American Dream. With today's veterans' highly technical training and the military's emphasis on education, and considering the nation's dire current need to build its STEM education and career infrastructure, should there be a limit on how far U.S. colleges and universities can go to increase their emphasis on veteran student recruitment and retention to address national deficiencies in STEM?

Recalling some of the data in NSF's workshop report, a look at the AAAS article "Their Return to Studies" is also enlightening. While the essay acknowledges veteran students' challenges in readjusting to the college classroom, it also boldly states that their

[m]ilitary service has imbued many of these veterans with valuable practical and technical skills and with qualities of focus, discipline, motivation, and maturity often lacking in students with less worldly experience,
all of which translates into success. Moreover, of the eight students profiled, one is Hispanic and three are women, two of whom are already Ph.D. candidates with the third contemplating a doctorate in science. In all, five of eight of the veterans were in graduate school or had been accepted into Ph.D. programs. While not representing authoritative data, these veterans' stories provide encouragement for institutions contemplating a potential return on their investments in student veterans in STEM programs.

Stepping back for a moment from the impact that these veterans' successes will have on their own lives, consider the broader impact on the education (and the general) community as they serve as role models for so many young students, for both girls and boys, of all races. Their impact is multiplied not only in that they will inspire girls, but girls and boys of all races who will see race as no barrier to academic or career success. Those veterans who succeed in STEM careers, inside and outside of academe, also "educate" society at-large by challenging the backward thinking that we still too often observe among our more reactionary fellow citizens who seem to be unable to accommodate earned success among women or people of color.

As this relates to previous ideas I've shared on this site about Post-Traumatic Growth, my purpose here is more to reconsider student veterans, to veer away for a moment from a primary focus on their service-related adjustment or transition challenges and to consider the strengths they bring with them back to their communities, including the higher education community. Certainly, there is an ever-increasing need to provide aid and comfort for the thousands of veterans, as well as their families, who have endured prolonged and repeated separation, deprivation, and physical and emotional injuries. Through research, education and community service, the higher education community has already begun to play a crucial role in addressing these needs, often for no other reason than it is the right thing to do. Many colleges and universities have adhered wholeheartedly to the notion of "Serving Those Who Have Served." At the same time, such challenges should not deter the education community from aggressively pursuing and recruiting student veterans and allowing them to prove themselves in classrooms after having returned from battlefields. Considering our national needs in STEM fields, and the demands in advancing our education enterprise, alongside student veterans' potential to help the nation meet those needs and demands, this new generation of veterans might find itself once more at the frontlines. This time, however, the frontlines will be at the STEM frontiers.

Originally posted to Military Community Members of Daily Kos on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:58 AM PST.

Also republished by DKos Military Veterans and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

    by dannyboy1 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:58:23 AM PST

  •  Our shop is majority veteran, and not for (7+ / 0-)

    sentimental reasons.  In our experience, veteran candidates exhibit better focus and skill retention than their civilian counterparts.  Our veterans are typically better communicators, one and one and before groups, and excel at defining problems for projects, managing them to completion, and cultivating a sense of team discipline.  Our lead PM is a guy who lives and breaths by the "it's good enough, cut it and go home" line of thought, and he ruthlessly enforces it.  If you're done, you're golden.  If not, you better be ready to show why your half-done work is no threat to the release.

    •  Thank you 124NewYork. (3+ / 0-)

      I remember from my days in academe, too, that my favorite profs to work with, I later found out, were often vets. Several proved to be extremely humble about their military (and their academic) achievements, and they were approachable when others were not. Maybe it was our shared military history, I don't know. But I was glad they were there for this often unfocused student.

      I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

      by dannyboy1 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:17:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank yu dannyboy1 for this info (3+ / 0-)

    There is some real progress going forward with this and thank you for sharing.


    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 07:56:51 AM PST

    •  Thank you, Vetwife, too. (5+ / 0-)

      I tried to publish this when it was still current and got nibbles but my contract wouldn't allow it. I farmed out a lot of the info to schools and eventually to a national pub (with refusal to be quoted for the articles the reporter wrote), but I figured, what the heck. The info is still useful, and the STEM diversity area is very pertinent even 20 years after I started surveying the issue in another job. Vets can and will be a huge asset to keeping the country moving foward, in my opinion anyway.

      I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

      by dannyboy1 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:14:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I hope the links helped.. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HeyMikey, glorificus, dannyboy1

        it is known that musci and math is very closely related and those involved with both who suffer from PTSD do much better when focusing on these thing.  The same could be said for science and NASA and the distances and stats regarding the space program, again involving science and math.  

        anything I would think that prys one into the present as much as possible with a genuine interest in the STEM can only prove helpful with the PTSD.

        We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

        by Vetwife on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 02:11:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I really Hope this True. (4+ / 0-)

    I'm a student veteran and I'm very active with the student veteran's club at my university. I see things daily that paint a grimmer picture than your diary would suggest. But I desperately hope you are right.... though I doubt it. I know this post should be more substantive but I'm not sure that I could do that without getting angry and I didn't want to direct that at you. Its just the situation I'm in and the men and women whose struggles I'm very privileged to witness. It's all rather bleak.

    •  Thank you, Lealia, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaNang65, Lealia

      I was a student veteran in the 70s, and the mood on campuses was generally not favorable to veterans at all, except in the vets' clubs or organizations in or around campus. Many vets during that time pretty much seemed to stay under the radar around the campus. I know that there are still many struggles, but there are also a number of campuses that have made great strides in  reaching out to veterans and working with organizations locally to teach the community and to let veterans take the lead. If you would like to look at some places that have accomplished a great deal and perhaps inform those around your institution, you can look at the Beck Pride Center at Arkansas State University. The University of Arizona was also on the cutting edge early on in reaching out to veterans. Mississippi State U. also invested a lot early on in building a welcoming and practical veterans' center. I visited a number of these campuses when I had a job that allowed me to travel to report on their activities. There are some genuinely concerned and dedicated veterans and non-veterans out there who will be glad to share what they have learned with other campuses if those campuses desire to build a more veteran and military-inclusive environment. I would be happy to share other information that I gathered about campuses if you are interested. Be blessed.

      I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

      by dannyboy1 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 05:22:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dannyboy--this is my response, it's pissy and it's (0+ / 0-)

    not in any way aimed at you personally. I am glad you are addressing this, so please consider this, me, talking to myself in my own head, about things I have observed.

    1. And this is old, but, As someone with training in electricity and electronics down to the component, when I exited the military, many colleges would not accept my military training, including that in math as anything at all. It was like I never got the training. The military itself dropped the ball on that one, refusing to evaluate these classes, and the colleges, [now run by the Mafia] saw that as the perfect excuse to suck more money out of students by not counting valuable education and training, in lieu of making more money, making us take redundant classes.

    2. Many civilians assumed [ASSUMED] that I wanted to stay in that STEM career when I exited the military as well. I could have gotten credit at For-Profit-Schools, but only if I pursued a job like the one I had in the service.

    3. Colleges did not know what to do with Female Vets, much less female vets with PTSD. Now, decades later they gush about their patriotism, and you will have to excuse me if I roll my eyes. Better late than never? Only if your GI Bill didn't run out, thanks for nothing.

    If you want more success in either civilian stem fields, or amongst women in the service, then women in both areas need to step up and start mentoring each other.

    That is the one thing that men do, that women do not. Men do this instinctually. Women avoid it instinctually.

    And the military with it's GI Bill, needed desperately to stop punishing those of us, who didn't want either an MBA or a STEM college major. Which they did. They often dumped all their resources into those areas for people looking to get a college education. Although I am unhappy with their new found friendship with many for-profit colleges, especially the weirdly religious ones, I would hate to see it go all the  way back to basically screwing anyone with a major that was not computers, avionics, or business.

    If you want more women or more people with STEM majors, I suggest starting at elementary grade levels, and don't focus all your resources ONLY on people who appear to be gifted or a genius.

    Science-y people cut their own throats by limiting who they spend their time on, in early childhood. It feels like they think, they can focus only on nature, and forget about the nurture. If you want more STEM grads, then start making STEM fields accessible early on.

    And For heaven's sake, do something about the institutional discrimination against women/girls by instructors and professors. People glorify this notion, of fighting for an education. Well--Been there, done that, and it sucks. Fighting every fucking day for something that other people get on a platter sucks. It's exhausting, it's distracting, and at some point you just get fed up and leave.

    Sound familiar? I never expected anyone to give me an A, or anything like that, but I also never expected a ration of shit either. Women being more sensitive to things like tonal qualities in the voice, and body language [hey it's evolutionary] can tell when they aren't wanted somewhere. We can take a hint. So no bitching about it when we act upon said hint.

    It sucks, because pursuing a STEM field in either college or the military is intensive work. When you add sexual harassment or discrimination to that, during that intensive coursework--it's not worth the physiological toll that it takes on one's body and mind. I just want to put that out there before someone accuses me of wimping out. I didn't have the luxury of quitting in my case, I would have gladly switched out to scrubbing toilets to get away from the bullshit in the classes. I had to be there by contract. At least college students have the ability to bail if things get too weird or unhealthy.

    That's what I have to say about that.

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