5 Strengths Military-Connected Students Bring to Your Campus

Military Students - Photo of an Eagle Flying Over Woodland

by Tanya Ang (ACE) and Bruce Kelley (University of South Dakota),
Presenters: Recorded Webcast, Supporting Military-Connected Students for Success and Completion

Each fall, as faculty, academic advisors, and others return to campus, there are fresh articles and blog posts about how to help military and veteran students. Often, these articles focus unfortunately on the “issues” that military students might bring to a campus, or the unique challenges they face. But we would like to suggest a shift in perspective: Military and veteran students are powerful assets to campus learning, campus life, and campus community. Institutions need to be thinking not only about how to provide targeted support for military students, but also about how to leverage their unique strengths.

A quick note: Before we share five specific ways in which this is the case, we’d like to define what we mean by “military-connected students.” While this term is often used to include students with a current or prior connection to the military (including dependents and spouses) for the purpose of this article, “military-connected” refers to members of the National Guard, reservists, active duty personnel, and veterans.

Here are five strengths of military-connected students that we want to discuss in this article:

  1. They are already the product of an intense educational experience.
  2. They bring diversity training and experience with diverse perspectives.
  3. They have resilience and are trained problem solvers; some have also received leadership training.
  4. They are working toward a mission and are focused on accomplishing their academic goals.
  5. They are service-oriented, volunteering more frequently than any other student demographic.

It's true that each of these strengths can also provide challenges for these students, depending on the context. But failing to recognize these qualities first as strengths means missing significant opportunities to not only integrate these students into the classroom and campus community, but to boost the quality of the college experience for all students.

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Photo above by Kea Mowat on Unsplash.