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Faculty/staff volunteers help soldiers readjust to college life

A group of staff and faculty members is volunteering to help student soldiers returning from combat readapt to college life.

About 40 members of the Faculty and Staff Veterans’ Liaisons program attended a two-hour workshop at the beginning of the semester. They discussed how to assist student war veterans who may have problems separating their war experience from college.

Liaisons identify student soldiers who may be having trouble reacclimatizing themselves to school and connect them with student support services that can help them make sense of their experiences in combat. Some offices that provide veteran support are the Student Advising and Learning Center, Student Counseling Center, Libraries, Veteran’s Affairs Program and Financial Aid.

“Approximately 80 students who had been called up to serve with the Washington National Guard in Iraq were slated to return to school this fall,” said Tom Brigham, executive assistant to the president for faculty affairs. The liaisons program is part of the university’s larger effort to assist student soldiers in returning to their studies more easily, he said.

“(For soldiers), there is a sense of being different and having to incorporate their war experiences into their life,” said Faith Lutze, associate professor of criminal justice and a WSU veterans’ liaison.

Why get involved?
Participating staff and faculty members joined the liaisons’ program for many different reasons.

Lutze volunteered because she wants to help ensure that troops have a “successful and healthy reintegration back into our community and into their future,” she said.

“Participating in the program is a chance for us to give our best to those who have given their best to us,” said Jack Severinghaus, psychologist and student counselor for the Intercollegiate College of Nursing and WSU Spokane.

For Wayne Joerding, professor of economics, the publicly funded university has a responsibility to take care of its troops.

“I think it’s especially important for a government institution such as WSU to serve all the students, but especially those students who have served the country,” said Joerding.

Jim Evermann, professor in the Infectious Diseases Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab, got involved in the program because he is a veteran, and his son is serving in Iraq.

“I would have liked this type of program when I returned to school, or at least the opportunity to seek assistance and support if needed,” Evermann said. “(The program) also made me feel like I was doing something to support (my son), as well as supporting his fellow veterans.”

Evermann, along with fellow liaison Beth Buyserie, an English instructor and assistant director of composition, has even begun planning ways of extending the liaisons group so that it can provide support to families and friends of active duty servicemen and women.

If you wish to participate …
Faculty and staff interested in joining this effort can contact any of the program’s three co-chairs: Chuck Pezeshki, vice chair of the Faculty Senate; Ken Vreeland, special assistant to the provost and executive vice president; or Brigham.

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