ASU launches Office for Veteran and Military Engagement, strives to connect veterans with community

A group of soldiers sits around a table during a reception for the launch of the Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement. (Photo by Diana Lustig) A group of soldiers sit around a table during a reception for the launch of the Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement on Feb. 4. (Photo by Diana Lustig)

The University announced Tuesday the new Office for Veteran and Military Engagement, a platform for veterans to engage in their community and share their stories, that also supports veteran research.

The event highlighted the work ASU is doing to connect with veterans.

The office, a partnership with the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, originated from an oral history course designed to record the stories of veterans from the two most recent wars.  

  History professor Mark von Hagen created the class. He contacted Steven Borden, the director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, to find veterans to enroll in the course. Students used dialogue to explore veteran experiences.

“One of the keys to veterans' success is their getting engaged on campus," Borden said. "We need to provide a way for veterans to connect with other veterans, but the truth of the matter is whatever comes after the military for them is going to largely revolve around interacting with people who are not veterans. So anything that we can do to help foster that ability to transition out of the military is going to be helpful to them.”

The event also included a presentation by Karen Roth, a speech and hearing science clinical professor, whose research focuses on veteran cognition and academic success.

“We are really hoping to identify some of the cognitive profiles that show patterns of difficulty," she said. "No one has really looked at that within this population, so we really want it to be that ground level of 'Let’s figure out what the problems look like so we can figure out what the possible accommodations and strategies are to help them.' We need facts to go off of to support the social, emotional and cognitive aspects of military veterans.”

Erika Hughes and Boyd Branch presented their work at the event. Hughes is a professor at the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and Branch is a visiting professor at the film school.

They created and developed a performance initiative that would allow veterans to share their stories and expand understanding of veteran experiences among civilians. This forum embraces dialogue and conversation.

“It’s really about dialogue. The big thing that I learned through this project is that I didn’t even know — I am not a veteran, my brother is a veteran and that distance between us — sometimes I didn’t even know what questions to ask him," Hughes said.

Hughes said she had trouble finding the right questions to ask and asking them in the right way. To solve this issue, the dialogue was shaped around a video that addressed the "horrible questions," thus allowing veterans to talk with one another while engaging the civilian population in an investigative way.

The program also included former U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Bigg, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who took von Hagen's oral history class. Bigg shared his history as a veteran and his experience in the class.

The Office for Veteran and Military Engagement hopes to continue to grow and will be hosting future veteran engagement events through the course of the year. Event information is posted on the office's website.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @johnsonkelcie55

Correction: Because of reporting error, an earlier version of this story misspelled former U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Bigg's name. It has been corrected.

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