Veteran Success Jam Attracts Thousands
By Elizabeth O’Herrin
In May 2010, the American Council on Education (ACE), in partnership with NASPA and with the generous upport of The Kresge Foundation, hosted an unprecedented online dialogue, the Veteran Success Jam. This
three-day national conversation brought together thousands of veterans and their families, servicemembers,
campus leaders, nonprofit organizations, and government
agencies to discuss the challenges and opportunities
facing veterans in higher education.
For 72 hours, participants discussed issues faced
by returning veterans and generated ideas in the
➤ Promising practices on college campuses
➤ Education benefits and financing an education
➤ Navigating a path to college
➤ College credits for military service
➤ Supporting the families of veterans
➤ Transitioning to employment and training
➤ Removing the myths and misconceptions of physical
and psychological health challenges.
A forum on each topic was hosted by a recognized
leader in the field aided by facilitators with in-depth subject
matter experience. Together, participants shared valuable resources, identified recurring barriers, and brainstormed about campus enhancements to support students.
Repeatedly, participants exchanged contact information
and planned further discussions outside of the Jam.
More than 3,000 registrants made more than 2,800
posts, representing individuals from all 50 states plus the
District of Columbia and more than 30 countries and territories logged on to participate. Nearly 60 percent of the
participants were college and university faculty and staff,
reinforcing the belief that institutional representatives want
to hear directly from veterans and are committed to serving them. The Jam drew more than 600 posts specfically
from veterans, signifying that veterans want to contribute
to these conversations and have vital insights to share.
Participants spent an average of two and a half hours in
the Jam and shared more than 175 unique web-based
During the course of the Jam, more than 650 participants attended a series of free webinars. The webinars, led
by prominent subject matter experts, provided participants
with vital and timely information on military transcripts,
post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and the Post-
9/11 GI Bill.
Several recurring topics surfaced in the Jam:
➤ The importance of a campus task force with high-level institutional representatives as well as current
➤ The barriers posed by military and civilian terminol-
ogy when veterans pursue an education and a career
➤ Specific or additional services for women veterans
➤ The gaps and difficulties with the Post-9/11 GI Bill
➤ The ever-increasing use of the term “veteran friendly”
by marketers and others that is diminishing the real
meaning of the phrase
➤ The need to create greater awareness of current
programs and of the difficulties in determining
effective resources from a large, and often overwhelming, pool.
ACE has released a summary report of the Jam,
“Ensuring Success for Returning Veterans,” which is available for download as a PDF at www.acenet.edu/STWS.
The report provides overviews of each of the forum discussions, participation metrics, key insights, and a list of the
web resources posted by participants. ACE will continue
to analyze this information and collaborate with others
in honing its agenda for the second year of Post-9/11
GI Bill implementation.
Elizabeth O’Herrin is the former associate director of
military programs at the American Council on Education.
students of color, students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds, and female students attended colleges and
universities across the country.
Veterans serving on or after September 11, 2001, depending on service length, are eligible for the “new GI Bill,”
the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This bill, with nearly $4 billion of
funding, provides the most attractive tuition, book, and living
stipends since the original GI Bill. Today’s veterans are more
diverse, highly trained, and mission driven than their predecessors. The Post-9/11 GI Bill may produce change within
academia of a similar magnitude as the GI Bill of 1944, with
a host of economic and human advantages awaiting “veteran
Making the Transition
For veterans of OEF/OIF, the shift from military to civilian
culture can be extreme. The profound sense of purpose, commitment to a critically important mission, deep camaraderie,
and intense stimulation of the battlefield is greatly missed. The
relative calm of the classroom, filled with many less mature
peers whose greatest challenge is passing exams, can feel
mundane and unreal. On many campuses, a successful transition will depend almost completely on the individual veteran’s
success in establishing goals, finding mentors, and developing
confidantes. Without a commanding officer or “point person”
to guide the way and provide specific guidance, these individuals may flounder. On the other hand, at “veteran friendly”