How to continue supporting our military community

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dear Members of the Appalachian Community,

When we think of marginalized and underrepresented groups, veterans and students in ROTC and the Guard/Reserves and active duty military may not immediately come to mind. We also may not consider the faculty, staff and administrators on our campus who represent these groups and the challenges each may face on a university campus. I have spent the last year serving on the Military Affairs Committee and learned more about military-affiliated community members and how we as an Appalachian Community can better support them.

According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, conducted by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, student veterans across the country generally feel less supported than their peers. They also tend to interact less with their professors and are less likely to participate in opportunities such as internships or study abroad. On Appalachian’s campus, student veterans have reported experiencing misperceptions about their scholastic abilities or susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, members of our military community possess strong mental health and outstanding leadership expertise, having come from a highly disciplined environment in which they developed effective time management and motivation to complete tasks. These are needed skills for all members of our campus community. Those who have served in the various branches of the military tend to be mature, dedicated and responsible. They are generally serious about their education and professional goals.

While Appalachian has been recognized as a Military Friendly School by Victory Media since 2010 and recently debuted on the Military Times Best: Colleges 2018 list, I encourage each of us to think how we might become even more engaged and supportive of the military community. Are there ways we can better recognize the strengths, abilities and excellence each military person brings to Appalachian, whether in our classrooms, offices or campus interactions?

Chancellor Sheri Everts recognized more could be done and in 2016 established the Major General Edward M. Reeder Jr. Student Veteran Resource Center, located in the Plemmons Student Union — which had 3,000 single visits in its first year of operation! The Chancellor also understands that many of our faculty and staff are military, and she strongly supports the efforts of the Military Affairs Committee.

The committee recommends additional ways faculty, staff and others can support their students and colleagues who are members of the military community:

  • Avoid stereotyping veterans, as the military community is highly diverse.
  • Remember their experiences in other cultures around the world can enrich the classroom and workplace.
  • Understand they may be called away on deployment and have to miss classes and work.
  • Respect that they may have to travel out of town to a Veterans Affairs facility for medical care, often at a day or time beyond their control.
  • Help connect new students and faculty/staff with Appalachian’s military resources.

As Appalachian State University endeavors to be an inclusively excellent campus, we understand members of our military community, just like all other minority groups, should know they are respected, supported and valued members of our greater campus community.

I encourage you to learn more about Appalachian’s military community by exploring these links:

Sincerely,

/s/ Willie C. Fleming

Dr. Willie C. Fleming ’80 ’84
Chief Diversity Officer