Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Supporting Student Veterans

It’s a military culture shock of sorts: one moment you have an organization that tells you everything you need to do and in the next moment you are in college and facing a bewildering array of choices. That’s the challenge facing many veterans as they re-enter civilian life and engage with higher education. Ken Hanson’s job is to help them make that transition and navigate the red tape.

“They need people to help them out,” Hanson said. “I try to inform them about how the GI Bill works and who they need to talk to at Vol State.”

Hanson is the new Veterans Affairs Coordinator at the college. He has a pretty good idea of what veterans are going through at the college. He spent 22 years in the Air Force.

“I started out enlisted for 12 years and I became an officer for the last 10 years.”

When asked where he was posted Hanson has to stop and think, eventually resorting to counting on his fingers to keep track.

“Five years in Japan. One year in Iraq,” he said. “And in the states: Arkansas, Florida, New Mexico, Delaware, New Jersey and Alabama.”

Veterans face challenges just returning home.

“You’re gone away from family and then all of a sudden you have to reestablish that and that takes time. It could take four to six months to reacclimatize to your family.”

Hanson will help student veterans navigate the Veterans Administration process.

“I want to make it more efficient to help student get their VA money quicker, but stay in the VA guidelines for the federal government and the college.”

He also plans to bring veterans together on campus.

“A lot of times veterans want that network. It’s rebuilding that camaraderie that they’re used to. That’s what most people miss when they leave the military.”

A student veteran organization is in the works, as well as an open house event. Hanson plans on engaging organizations such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars to work with students on campus. Faculty or staff interested in participating should e-mail him.

“Student veterans just need someone to help them and hopefully if they feel that camaraderie it will help them stay in school and be successful.”

Reach Ken Hanson By e-mail: ken.hanson@volstate.edu

And visit the new Vol State VA page at www.volstate.edu/veterans

Volunteer State Community College Veterans

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