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Weeklong experience helps connect College programs with military

Kristen B. Morales

June 12, 2019

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As it happens, degrees in the University of Georgia College of Education are a good fit with students who have spent time in the military.

The College of Education is home to the largest number of student veterans on campus, with many using their experience with fitness, training and leadership to go into civilian areas such as exercise science, athletic training or classroom teaching.

Now, one faculty member is aiming to make even more connections through a weeklong program to introduce educators and other influencers into military life. Diann Olszowy Jones, a clinical assistant professor in the department of lifelong education, administration and policy, is spending a week in Quantico, Virginia, later this month to learn more about the Marines' recruiting and training process.

The Marine Corps Recruiting Command's Educators and Key Leaders Workshop is an opportunity for educators and others to get an inside look at the Marine lifestyle and the experiences officers have. The experience will not only allow her to more fully understand the mindset and training student veterans are coming from when they transition out of the military, she said, but it's also a chance to understand how the military conducts its own leadership training—and how some principles can be applied to future students in her program.

"I see this as a really big opportunity to not only learn from the military, but to also use ideas to attract more military to our program," said Jones, who teaches in the learning, leadership and organization development program. "The mission for our program is to create leaders to go back to wherever that is and make meaningful changes—to create opportunities to change the paradigm. And I'm intrigued by this opportunity."

As a graduate-level program, learning, leadership and organization development draws students from a variety of professional backgrounds who want to add a new level of leadership training to their career trajectory. Whether they come from the private sector, the public sector or the nonprofit world, the program teaches topics such as leadership roles, tactics for managing change in an organization and adult learning.

It's an area where former military personnel can thrive as they set their career on a new course, said Jones. But in addition to recruiting future students, understanding military training, which is all about adult learning, can be a beneficial aspect to the program.

Ted Barco, director of UGA's Student Veterans Resource Center, said often veterans who return to college after leaving the military need to "unlearn" what they've learned. When servicemembers leave to pursue a degree, they see that as their next "mission"—and they can't fail the mission. But, Barco says, it's important to ask for help along the way in college, which is different from a military experience.

Jones wondered if college faculty and administrators view the world from the opposite side—and also need to unlearn a few things.

"So, I'm thinking, maybe we need to unlearn what we've learned?" she said. "I want to go there and clearly understand what a veteran is going through. They go through all this training and then, how do they transition to civilian life? There's more to be studied in the military training."

During her week with the Marines, Jones will be led through typical training exercises, meet the Commandant of the Marine Corps, attend a typical tactics class and take a shot at the Marine Corps combat fitness test. Attendees, which include educators and other recruitment influencers from across the country, will also get to experience what it's like to exit a Humvee after it's flipped, learn some Marine Corps martial arts and meet pilots who fly Air Force One.

Jones said some of the best students to come through the learning, leadership and organization development program have public safety and military backgrounds. Now, through this experience, she's hoping to build off that relationship and add features to the program that can more closely dovetail with a military background.

"They bring a very different perspective to our classes—they are excellent students," she said. "We would love to have more."