Miami Regionals program gets student veterans talking about their experiences

A new program at Miami University Regionals is giving veterans an opportunity to share their experiences.

Miami Regionals recently was awarded an $89,000 federal grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to facilitate its 2018-2019 project “From War Zone to Home: A Humanities Dialogue.”

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Miami Regionals will build an undergraduate humanities seminar for student veterans at its Hamilton and Middletown campuses, to be piloted in the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters, said Visiting Assistant Professor of History Matthew Smith. He said classes will integrate readings from history, literature, and philosophy and will serve as an inclusive space where veterans can share their experiences freely while engaging with the humanities and each other and non-veteran students.

The goal, he said, is to “develop dialogue with the community.”

Faculty will interrogate the experience of war in the historical context of America’s War of Independence, Vietnam, and the Global War on Terror. In addition, a selected group of student veterans will be trained to serve as discussion leaders and peer mentors through the course’s initial offering.

First Sgt. J.P. Smith, coordinator of Miami Regionals Center for Veterans Services, served in the Army for 23 years. He said in a class setting, veterans typically “don’t talk about being a veteran” because they don’t want “to stand out.”

He said he hopes the programs give veterans an opportunity to share their experiences.

“An emphasis will be put on participation,” he said.

Once veterans lead the discussion, he expects others in the class to join.

“It will be interesting, contagious,” said Smith.

Matthew Smith co-authored the proposal with philosopher Brian Baer and fellow historians Michael Carrafiello and Anthony Miller. All four professors teach in the Miami Regionals Department of Humanities and Creative Arts.

The seminar builds on Miami Regionals’ tradition of effectively serving non-traditional students, and promises to expand Miami’s outreach to veterans in the community, said Kristen Taylor, senior regional director of Enrollment Management at Miami University Regionals. There are 371 students who receive Veterans Affairs benefits, and 168, or 45 percent, attend Miami Regionals, she said.

Taylor, who said student veterans are an “integral part” of their student population, said the faculty often shares their student veterans are the “most prepared and active learners,” adding value to their classroom conversations.

In addition to the new seminar, “From War Zone to Home” will facilitate public programming at Miami Regionals engaging local veterans and the general public in constructive dialogue. Author Kevin Powers, a U.S. Marine veteran, will participate in a campus forum to discuss his military service and award-winning Iraq War novel The Yellow Birds. In addition to Powers’s visit, Miami Regionals alumnus Josh Hisle, a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War, will screen and discuss his acclaimed 2017 documentary From War to Wisdom, documenting real life stories of veterans who have survived the battlefield, the shock of returning home, and the challenges of transition.

An additional legacy will be the establishment of a Miami University Regionals student veterans’ oral history archive. Students in this NEH pilot program will be encouraged to reflect on the significance of their military service, and their responses will be video recorded and publicly archived in an accessible website. This archive will grow over the years, and will be used as a teaching resource in future offerings of the seminar. It will also be submitted to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project through the American Folklife Center, becoming part of the nation’s largest veterans’ oral history collection.

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