The Journey Home: Support for Community College Student Veterans
With the help of an NEH grant, McHenry County College (MCC) created a program to help veteran students better transition into post-military lives and academic study. Project director Todd Culp had mentored student veterans informally for years; The Journey Home is the product of his vision for a more systematic approach to helping student veterans navigate unique challenges and share their experiences. The program features a special series of integrated courses for veterans and civilians, a collaboration with the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, and public programming that highlights the value of veterans’ voices.
These “learning community” courses combine the historical and literary study of war in American and global contexts. Throughout the semester, veterans complete extensive journal responses to works by veterans, war correspondents, historians, and mental health professionals. They conduct research into oral histories at the Pritzker Museum. And they are invited to contribute their stories to the museum. In addition to the course, the college offers related public programs. One presentation featured the stories of women veterans, followed by a panel discussion between six female veteran students. This event opened a broader discussion of issues specifically experienced by women veterans and provoked an outpouring of support from the campus and community.
The Journey Home has garnered substantial media attention and both Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Randy Hultgren have applauded the NEH for funding it. Culp and co-director Mark Waters are now sharing successful strategies for engaging veterans on campus on local and national levels. They’ve advised another local community college, shared with leaders at MCC and the Student Veterans of America, and presented the project at two conferences. “We want to be a resource for people who don’t quite know how to deal with the topic,” says Waters. “You can give veterans a voice in virtually any humanities class.”