Veterans will soon receive greater recognition both inside and outside the classroom at Wake Technical Community College.
Wake Tech is taking a number of steps to help veterans on campus and educate the larger student body about their experiences in warfare. For starters, faculty and staff are receiving training to better equip them to help student veterans, in part by explaining the lifestyle challenges veterans face coming out of active service.
And starting next month, the school will begin a two-year project to research and catalog the experiences of Triangle veterans and use those stories in the classroom. In the first phase, students and faculty at Wake Tech will seek out and record stories from veterans to create oral histories that will be housed at the State Archives and made available to the public, said Barry Malone, a history professor who helps lead the Humanities Department at Wake Tech.
The next step will be to incorporate veterans’ perspectives and the effects of war in courses in English, the humanities, and social sciences.
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“We think the humanities, social sciences, and English can play a unique role in understanding how these men and women serve our country,” Malone said.
The project, titled America’s Wars: Individual Experience and Collective Memories, will be underwritten by a grant of nearly $100,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Wake Tech will host two symposiums as part of the project, the first mainly a discussion among veterans, guests lecturers and faculty from Wake Tech, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, N.C. State and UNC-Charlotte focused on “the nature of combat, the causes of wartime atrocities, and the social and cultural effects of war.” Faculty will integrate aspects of that discussion into their classes, Malone said, with perhaps an assignment that asks students to compare soldiers’ letters home during different conflicts, or a project where students examine wartime literature or movies.
“It’s a way to help our students think deeply and broadly about war, how men and women fought in war, and their experiences when they come home from war,” Malone said.
The second symposium will bring back some of the faculty from other schools to talk to students after they’ve had a chance to experience the new course material.
“I think if we can bring some awareness to what our history has been, we can begin to help students understand better what it means to be a member of the military,” said Sam Strickland, a 24-year Air Force veteran and Senior Vice President for Military and Veterans Programs at Wake Tech.
The final part of the project will include a student-curated museum exhibit housed at Wake Tech, with help from the City of Raleigh Museum. All told, the America’s Wars: Individual Experience and Collective Memories project is expected to reach 4,000 Wake Tech students.
“This is an important project,” said Wake Tech President Stephen Scott. “We are excited and proud to be a part of documenting veterans’ experiences.”
The project coincides with the recent introduction of “Green Zone” training for Wake Tech staff and faculty on challenges that veterans may face coming out of service. After completing the training, staff and faculty can place a decal on their office door, signifying a “Green Zone” for veterans. The move is an effort to create a more friendly and open environment where those who have received training can help connect veterans with the services and resources they need.
Twenty-five Wake Tech staff and faculty have completed the training. The community college joins a number of schools in North Carolina that now offer Green Zone training, including UNC Chapel Hill, N.C. State, and East Carolina.
“Wake Tech is becoming a more and more veteran-friendly campus,” said Tyrone Ashe, president of the Wake Tech Student Veterans Association and a Marine Corps veteran.
Another sign of the growing regard for veterans at Wake Tech is new ID badges for faculty, staff and student veterans, signifying their military service. Starting in the fall, staff and faculty veterans will have IDs that include an American flag; the more than 1,200 student veterans at Wake Tech will have the option to get similar IDs.
“Veterans will have an easy, visible way of identifying fellow veterans on campus,” said Strickland.
It’s uncertain how successful the badges will be at facilitating connections between veterans. Christopher Warmbrod, a student at Wake Tech and Army veteran of 4 years, said he doesn’t use his Wake Tech ID that much.
“It may be helpful for some students, but me in particular, not really,” Warmbrod said. “I could see it being a good idea if people use their IDs more.”
But Ashe said IDs will become more prevalent on campus because they’ll be needed to get in to some buildings.
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