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Veteran students per campus have doubled since 2009

Former Student Veterans of America Executive Director Michael Dakduk believes peer-to peer support leads to better academic output and higher academic potential. Photo credit:

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Turns out training is not just for the military; sometimes, it can benefit those who are in contact with the military too.

In September, Student Veterans of America (SVA) and Kognito Interactive announced a partnership that could effectively alter how student veterans are approached, counseled and handled when they decide to take off their uniform and pursue higher education.

SVA is a nonprofit coalition of more than 850 student veteran organizations on college campuses globally. Its mission is to provide military veterans with the resources, support and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation. These goals are what led to the creation of the Veterans on Campus initiative with the help of Kognito Interactive, a noted developer of role-playing training simulations that address national challenges in the areas of health and behavioral health.

According to the 2012 From Soldier to Student study, 62 percent of the almost 700 educational institutions surveyed confirmed that they had programs in place for military students. However, only one-third of institutions with services for military students and veterans actually provide transition assistance.

The study also showed that the number of active-duty or veteran students per campus had more than doubled since the previous study in 2009. Given the military's downsizing, the assumption can be made that those numbers have continued to climb over the last 18 months.

In order to handle this influx, the two organizations have created a suite of online, skill-building simulations - Veterans on Campus - that prepare faculty, staff, and the student veterans themselves to recognize and address challenges they could face during the transition from military to college life.

Examples of challenges range from social isolation to academic difficulties to mental-health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or the effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Such obstacles can interfere with a student veteran even pursuing, let alone completing, a college degree.

In each Veterans on Campus simulation, users enter a virtual practice environment and engage in role-playing with emotionally responsive and fully animated virtual students intended to realistically portray student veterans struggling with the adjustment to college life. The user's task is to help the virtual student through the challenges, as well as build the student's motivation to actively resolve those challenges.

"It is critical that institutions of higher education create conditions for student veterans to thrive both academically and socially as they transition back to civilian life," said SVA's former Executive Director Michael Dakduk in a press release.

Based on its own research, SVA reported that 11 colleges who had utilized the new virtual training noted statistically significant increases in military cultural competence and gatekeeper skills (i.e., the skills to identify, approach, and refer a veteran exhibiting signs of psychological distress) both immediately after the training and at four-, six- and 12-week follow-ups.

All of the simulations are available 24 hours a day, every day online and include outreach materials and databases of local and national resources. To view demos of the Veterans on Campus simulations, go to

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