- Student Veterans and Service Members in Higher Education by Jan Arminio, Tomoko Kudo Grabosky, & Josh Lang
Jan Arminio, Tomoko Kudo Grabosky, & Josh Lang
New York, NY: Routledge, 2015, 168 pages, $34.77 (softcover)
Arminio, Grabosky, and Lang provide compelling coverage of a segment of students on US institutions of higher education: student veterans and military service members (SVSM). The coverage in the volume is reflective of the multiple perspectives of the author team, as researcher, practitioner, and student veteran. Reflective of these three perspectives, the volume includes empirical evidence, stemming from their multi-site case study of cultural conflict experienced by SVSM during their transition to the military and then to higher education; it illuminates best practices and calls for practitioner advocacy for SVSM students as they navigate campus barriers; and this volume draws heavily on SVSM voices (from their data) to narrate the cultural conflicts during transition experiences.
Following an introductory preface, the authors provide a rich and well-researched overview of “the long but inconsistent tradition of veterans’ benefits” (p. 1). This comprehensive historical context stirs the reader to consider “how and when those benefits included education” (p. 1), but the authors also use their overview of historical shifts and evolutions to foreshadow issues later discussed in the volume. For instance, the authors illuminate (historical) institutionalized inequities in allocation or distribution of benefits, and the reader can see these vestiges in a later chapter on (in)equity issues. It is not hard to connect the historical reality that “prior to World War II, women who serviced in the nurse corps were not providing any rank or benefits” (p. 7), with “strong stereotypes in society that women are not ‘real veterans’ or that they are not exposed to ‘real danger’ compared to male veterans” (p. 119). The authors’ description of Bonus Marchers—a group of veterans in the 1930s who marched from Oregon to Washington, DC in protest of poor economic conditions (i.e. few benefits and high unemployment)—foreshadows organizing by SVSM on campus, but also their discussion of the need for practitioners to possess advocacy competencies. I appreciated the authors’ strategic use of history to foreshadow what followed in the volume.
In chapter 2, the authors describe the methodology for their multi-site case study, and analyze and discuss their findings through a cultural lens. The authors contrast military [End Page 756] culture, characterized by collectivism, rigid hierarchical structures, and masculinity (p. 27), with higher education (and civilian) culture, characterized by “individualistic values, personal responsibility, independent thinking, and democratic principles” (p. 29). Interestingly, the authors draw upon theoretical work that has typically “focused on students from different countries or ethnic and racial backgrounds” (p. 29). This intriguing application of works, such as Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and Berry’s model of acculturation, invites the reader to think more broadly about what it means to be culturally competent. Calls for student affairs professionals to be (multi) culturally competent (a point the authors discuss further at the beginning of chapter 4) demand that individuals “be aware of their own assumptions, biases, and stereotypes” (p. 42), including, the authors emphasize, those held about military culture.
The authors’ description of an advocacy model (in chapter 4) is an important contribution of this book. With acknowledgment that the field of student affairs has emphasized the importance of developing professional competencies, and specifically multicultural competence, they also note the need for advocacy competency as “an essential social justice strategy” (p. 58). They observe the “lack of literature on advocacy” in student affairs and the “need to go beyond the field of higher education to search for literature that offers advocacy strategies” necessary for higher education administrators (p. 59). They turn to the ACA Advocacy Competencies (citing Lewis, Arnold, House, & Toporek, 2002), adapting the ACA model to illuminate how student affairs professionals can advocate for SVSM students at an individual level (see Table 4.1 on p. 61), an institutional level (see Table 4.2 on p. 65), and for engaging in socio-political advocacy at a systemic level (see Table 4.3 on p. 70). While the authors’ focus is...