VETS course offers faculty strategies to teach, relate to veterans

Resource part of increasing effort supporting educational success

A 30-minute online course and video, VETS: Veteran Educator Training and Support Program,is now available to help CU faculty better understand the needs of student veterans and learn strategies that promote veteran success in the classroom.

A collaboration between campus-based veteran’s affairs offices and the CU system Employee Services’ Employee Learning and Development division, this resource is part of a growing number of CU programs dedicated to helping student veterans be successful.

“These training tools allow staff members from all around the world to get an understanding of what serving in the military in wartime is like, and the strategies that will help service members and veterans be successful,” said Phillip Morris, director of the Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs at UCCS.

There are more than 600,000 student veterans in the U.S., according to the VETS course. This number is predicted to grow to as many as 2 million student veterans by 2025.  Veterans face many issues as they transition from active duty, such as expectations from instructors, structuring their time and effort, and finding the appropriate health care and mental health services. The online course is important in aiding these transitions, as many civilians do not understand what it is like serving in the military.

“In the Army I had a purpose, a reputation, and a lot of people depending on me to do my job,” said John Woods, a UCCS student and veteran. This can be a very different culture than what is experienced in higher education.

The course discusses subtle ways that faculty can enhance student veterans’ educations. For example, the course video says that veterans are detail oriented and extremely focused, and faculty can enhance those positive traits in a variety of ways, such as giving clear instructions. The new introductory video discusses the challenges faced by student veterans as well as the positive characteristics of many veterans that will benefit their education. It creates a network of supportive faculty and staff for veterans to use as resources.

“I am really grateful for kind, respectful, inclusive professors who would tell the class from day one, ‘If you have anything you need to talk to me about, I am available right after class or you can email me,’” Woods said. “That was absolutely huge in my world, considering the hailstorm of fear, doubt, paranoia and anxiety I was walking through in the beginning stages of my transition.”

Transitions are key to each office. The CU-Boulder Office of Veteran Services offers three phases of support: Transition to School, Success at School, and Post-School Success. At UCCS, programs are offered for veterans transitioning into the university as well as into a career at the end of their education. CU Denver offers a peer-to-peer mentor program to connect student veterans to campus resources. Patrick Browne, director of the Office of Veteran Student Services at CU Denver, said it offers a mentor program and connects students to mental health professionals and tutors as needed to ease the transition into academics. On all CU campuses, the veteran’s affairs offices provide counseling on veterans benefits, which can be very complicated.

Each CU campus supports student veterans after they graduate. One of CU Denver’s most successful programs is Boots to Suits, which is being adopted by UCCS as well. Through Boots to Suits, student veterans have access to career mentorship, so they are better prepared to enter the workforce. They also receive a suit to start them in their career.

So what’s next for CU? Each campus is working to improve its existing programs. Denver, Boulder and UCCS also are working on building stronger connections with community colleges. These programs will form a sturdy pathway from local community colleges into the university.

These efforts are paying off for CU. As the U.S. sees an uptick in student veteran enrollment, CU is well prepared to welcome them to any campus.

Access the VETS video and course

To take this 30-minute online course, please log into the employee portal at, click on the Training tab and select “Start SkillSoft.”

The course can be found at SkillSoft under the University of Colorado – Courses> any campus folder> Faculty> CU: VETS: Veteran Educators Training and Support Program.