Transitioning to college from the military can be a challenging endeavor, and students, faculty and staff gathered Tuesday to learn more about student veterans and their experiences with that transition.
April Krowel, an Army veteran and a first-year doctoral student in Ball State’s Department of Counseling Psychology, presented “Understanding and Welcoming Student Veterans” at the L.A. Pittenger Student Center. She joined the Army right after 9/11 and was deployed to Iraq in 2003. Her presentation was an add-on to her masters thesis, which explored college adaptation differences between traditional college students and student veterans.
“Transitioning to college was different and challenging because you have this sense of isolation from people who are supposed to be your peers,” Krowel said. “But you have so much more life experience that it’s kind of challenging to relate to them.”
After returning from war, one in five combat veterans has a mental or physical disability, but 80 percent of those people claim they don’t, Krowel said. Invisible wounds, such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, can be difficult for family members, friends and professors to understand.
With health issues and long absences from school, many veterans test into remedial courses making graduating a more challenging task.
“Leaving the military isn’t just leaving a job, it’s leaving a way of life,” she said.
Through her research, Krowel feels that the faculty and staff at Ball State can help student veterans by projecting an understanding attitude, being informed, being accessible and taking a cut-to-the-chase approach to degree attainment.
“[Student veterans] want to be here,” Krowel said. “They want to have a sense of belonging.”
Being sensitive toward veterans is one thing some faculty and staff seem to have a problem with, Krowel said.
“The most challenging thing I see with student veterans is that they don’t give school enough time,” said Beck Hannaford, Veterans Benefits and Financial Assistant coordinator.
Krowel said the university could help student veterans finish school by waiving application fees, giving priority registration, creating workshops for faculty and staff and granting credit for military experiences.
“Our wish list would be that we would have a Veteran’s Resource Center similar to Indiana University and Purdue University,” Hannaford said. “My other wish is that Indiana would pass a law granting in-state residency to every veteran within 12 months after they come off active duty. There’s a huge difference between in-state fees and out-of-state fees.”
Hannaford said he has known Krowel since she came to Ball State and was impressed with her presentation and the effort she has given at the university.
“She’s been able to focus and been on track to earning her doctoral degree,” he said. “I wish we could just bottle up her work ethic; that [would] be a great thing to have. We’ve been honored to have her at Ball State.”
Krowel’s husband, Justin Krowel, is a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient and a student veteran at Ball State. He will present “Leadership Lessons from Two Theaters” at Bracken Library on April 19.