Ann Shivers McNair of the University of Southern Mississippi presented on “From Checkpoint to Gateway: Military Personnel and Veterans in the Basic Writing Classrooms.”
Ann described teaching in a town with a heavy military community: how do we serve veterans returning to school?
A student in her stretch English 101 who was a returning veteran helped to recruit student veterans for the course because he found that her class was immensely helpful and designed with supportive strategies, but he felt isolated from the rest of the student population. He wanted to create a supportive community for future student veterans taking the course. The project focused on self-identified veterans. The student veterans worked in a workshop style class and were supported by the student veteran who had previously taken the class. What emerged was a strong, supportive community and writing that allowed the small group to explore their military experiences in writing.
The students have supported one another and an organic self-placement helped to create a successful, positive space for veterans.
Students in this group also developed a diversity presentation to help the college community think about military personnel and their experiences because many faculty and students don’t know how to interact with the student veterans.
Shivers McNair’s experience points to a growing need to develop writing programs and experiences for student veterans in our courses. She’s currently working with the VA to find ways to pay the students for their work and leadership.