EKU Veterans Studies
What is Veterans Studies?
Veterans Studies (VTS) is a new and growing academic discipline that examines the identities, cultures, and experiences of members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The discipline was founded upon the belief that military veterans have cultures of their own. They are cultures shaped by the shared experiences of military training and indoctrination, peacetime and wartime service, and the reintegration into civilian life. In other words, military veterans share languages, traditions, social hierarchies, histories, belief systems, psychological conditions, physiological ailments, social problems and strengths that are worthy of academic study.
VTS students pursuing the Veterans Studies Minor or Certificate supplement the work they do in their major areas of study, learning an interdisciplinary approach that helps them understand representations of veterans, world events impacting the military experience, as well as the psychological and sociological forces that influence veterans' lives before, during, and after military service.
Who Can Take Veterans Studies Courses?
Anyone! VTS 200 Introduction to Veterans Studies, the first course in the VTS curriculum, fulfills EKU’s General Education Element VI requirement for “Diversity of Perspectives and Experiences.” Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and take VTS courses for a variety of reasons.
Examples of VTS students include those who
Work in careers that provide services to veterans, such as medical or mental healthcare professionals with the Department of Veterans Affairs;
Work alongside or on behalf of veterans as DoD Civilians, non-profit leaders, first responders, or other government employees;
Want to understand the perspectives and experiences of spouses, family members, friends, or other loved ones who’ve served in the military
Have served in the military and want to contextualize and develop a deeper understanding of their experiences in uniform through academic inquiry.
VTS 200, and to a greater extent, the Veterans Studies Minor and Certificate, complements any major field of study. EKU’s VTS curriculum provides students with a level of cultural competency in veterans’ identities, cultures, and experiences that can’t be learned anywhere else.
Experiencing Veterans Studies Courses
Because of its interdisciplinary nature, VTS students can expect to interact with students they might not encounter in their major discplines. In any given course you might find a Psychology major debating an English major about the meaning of a war memoir. You might hear an Occupational Therapy major having a conversation with a History major about the differences between returning to civilian life after World War 2 and the Iraq War.
Some of the most rewarding experiences, in both in-person and online VTS classes, come from discussions between veteran and non-veteran students. VTS courses provide a safe space to discuss ideas, share experiences, and breakdown misconceptions and stereotypes. Here's what a few
VTS students had to say about their experiences in an article for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine:
When I first started the psychology program, I knew I wanted to work with those who’ve served in the military ... [Veterans Studies] has turned out to be one of the best programs I have ever been a part of. It has strengthened my knowledge about veteran culture in ways I never could have on my own. -VTS Student and Psychology Major, Katie Andrews
I was able to show them that some wounds aren’t physical—that some veterans silently carry the burdens of tough choices made in the line of duty into their classes. [Veterans Studies] should be in every college around the nation. -VTS Student and Marine Corps Veteran, Benjamin Congleton
History of the EKU Veterans Studies Program
In 2011, EKU launched Veterans Studies, the first academic program of its kind in the country. The program’s founders, Dr. Travis Martin and Dr. Brett Morris, decided that the discipline should provide "an academic minor/certificate program that prepares students to identify and understand the often unique experiences and challenges faced by veterans of military service."
Martin's goal for the program involved "exploring the institutional, relational, and cultural dimensions of the military/veteran culture through the study of war literature, history, and psycho/social experiences" (Craig 102). In other words, VTS students learn to understand the structures and hierarchies that allow the military institution to function; they examine the ways veterans interact within veteran sub-cultures and greater society; they analyze, discuss, and critique cultural representations of veterans in literature, artwork, and the mainstream media.
As an academic discipline, Veterans Studies is applicable not only to the military/veteran community but also to students who are not part of that population. One goal of Veterans Studies' formation at EKU was to "[introduce] non-veterans to military service, [allow] veterans to contextualize their experience, and bring both groups together in scholarly analysis of those issues relevant to veterans of different generations" (Coleman).
Since its origins, Veterans Studies at EKU has conferred many minors, certificates, and focused Associate of General Studies degrees. Veterans Studies faculty members are active scholar-professors with strong records of publications and conference presentations that complement the VTS curriculum. Using Martin's original definitions as a starting point, University of Missouri-St. Louis Professor Jim Craig offers this definition of the field: "Veterans Studies is an emerging, inherently multidisciplinary academic field devoted to developing a clearer understanding of veterans and the veteran experience in the past, the present, and the future."
The formation of Veterans Studies at EKU has brought many distinguished visitors to campus, including a 2010 invited visit by Gen. Eric Shinseki, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and a 2013 requested visit by then-First Lady Michelle Obama, who was greatly impressed with EKU's commitment to helping student veterans.
Join the conversation about veterans. Declare a minor or certificate in Veterans Studies at EKU.
To read more about the foundation of Veterans Studies at EKU, check out these resources:
Coleman, Penny. “Veterans Studies: Expanding Notions of ‘Vet Friendly’ to Include the Curriculum.” Military Experience and the Arts, 20 May 2014. MilitaryExperience.org
Craig, Jim. “Bounding Veterans Studies: A Review of the Field.” Proceedings of the Third Conference on Veterans Studies, Roanoke, VA, 12-14 Nov. 2015.
Dao, James. “A Million Strong: Helping Them Through.” New York Times, 1 Feb. 2013.