Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Military Cultural Competency: Understanding How to Serve Those Who Serve

Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Military Cultural Competency: Understanding How to Serve Those Who Serve

Article excerpt


Most institutions of higher education support a military student population; according to the 2014 report on military education by the National Center for Educational Statistics (Queen, & Lewis), 96% of institutions reported enrolling military service members, veterans, or military family members. Of these institutions, 89% of them identified military population students via the receipt of military and veterans education assistance, 74% identified military population students via questions on the admissions application, and 59% indicated self-report methods other than via admissions. However, according to the same report, while the majority of institutions of higher education enroll and support military population students, the services offered may vary dramatically. For instance, while 82% of institutions report having a dedicated point of contact for military service members and veterans (such as a staffmember or office), and 76% of institutions award academic credit for military training received during active duty, only 14 % of institutions offer any form of military population mentoring, and only 36% offer any form of student military organization. As such, services which are available may be more beneficial and targeted to active duty and veteran populations, without specific services available for smaller populations with unique challenges, such as disabled veterans or military family members.

With most institutions of higher education providing service to military populations, it is important that institutions be prepared to understand the needs and challenges of a military population. Military students bring with them a unique set of experiences, insights, challenges, and skills. Each one of them has been exposed to and influenced by their branch of service, rank structure, and military operations. Defining these various influences and the military population will lay the foundation for training, development, and programmatic support at the institution. However, developing a plan to do this effectively may present a unique challenge for a predominantly civilian academic environment. Just 0.5% of the American population serves in the armed forces (Eikenberry & Kennedy, 2013). According to a Gallup poll survey on military service (Newport, 2012), only 12.7% of adults in the US are veterans. Among adult women, only 2% have prior military service. Twenty-four percent of adult men are veterans, but only 12% of overall percentage of men with prior military status reflects the larger proportion of older men men over age 65, more than 50% have prior military service, and among men aged 85 - 89, education who serve military population to have at least basic understanding of the military and work on cultivating cultural competency within their staff and faculty bodies, it may be helpful to think of the military as another culture for which to develop competence.

A primary challenge for institutions of higher education who serve a military population is to better understand who these students are and what makes them unique and different in terms of higher education. How do the requirements of a military population translate into the services offered by the administration and the strategies used within the classroom? The intent of this article is to provide a brief overview of military culture and military populations, to support the development of "military cultural competency" for institutions of higher education, and to offer practical strategies for implementing improved support of military students.

Federal Regulations: Only the Beginning

Those who offer higher education to military populations need to clearly understand the guidelines and regulations provided by the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and other military and veteran service organizations. While the staffmember or office on campus who supports service members and veterans likely has familiarity with these regulations, leadership and faculty should also be informed, in order to ensure policies and programmatic support are in place for military students. …

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