~ That’s no surprise says VCCS grad turned veteran turned professor ~
RICHMOND — A growing and increasingly diverse number of U.S. military veterans are enrolling in Virginia’s Community Colleges. That’s neither a mistake nor surprising says one person who has spent her adult life watching the issue from all sides: first as a community college student and graduate; then as an officer in Army Reserve; and now as a full-time nursing professor at her alma mater.
The VCCS collectively served 24,132 veteran students between the 2008-09 academic year and last year. A look within those numbers reveals some interesting trends:
- The VCCS served 65 percent more veterans last year (9,404) than they did in the 2008-2009 school year (5,703).
- Women accounted for nearly one-third of the veteran students compared to only ten percent of the total U.S. veteran population.
- The number of Hispanic/Latino veteran students grew by 165 percent during that period.
- The number of African American veteran students increased 96 percent in that time.
“The system is more user-friendly for veterans today then when I was in college in the early 1980s,” said Brenda Dixon, a professor of nursing at Germanna Community College. “We reach out to the veterans, and employ coordinators to ease the transition of veterans to the college setting. Our faculty receives training, geared toward assisting Veterans in the classroom. Also, veterans are allowed to form a club on campus, which serves as a support system.”
Dixon, who was one of 12 children, was the first in her family to attend college when she entered the nursing program at Germanna Community College in 1980. There, a mentor’s stories of military service inspired her to enlist in the Army Reserve where she would go on to serve four years on active duty and rise to the rank of Lt. Colonel. She continued her education, earning a master’s degree and several post-master’s certificates. Today, she is a professor at the community college where it all began.
Dixon says her experience as a community college student allows her to identify with the people she is teaching and her experience in uniform gives her special insights on working with Veterans. “While serving on active duty for four years, working with soldiers injured in combat, I was able to gain an appreciation for the sacrifices they made, and identify techniques that could be used to assist the veterans with re-entering back into the community.”
Further, Dixon says the increased diversity seen among veteran students simply mirrors the larger community. “When I started teaching nursing in 1986, I was the only African American nursing faculty member. [Today] more minority faculty and students, from many different countries, are seen on campus.”
“Preparing veterans for good-paying civilian careers is one of the best ways that we can show them our appreciation for their service,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “These encouraging numbers demonstrate that we are doing that and show us ways that we can do even more moving forward.”
See more on the success of Veterans as students in this recent Student Success Snapshot.
About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Created more than 40 years ago, the VCCS is comprised of 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses across the commonwealth. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve nearly 400,000 students a year. For more information, please visit www.vccs.edu.