Transitioning to college life is challenging. This semester, instructor David Chrisinger taught a First Year Seminar class designed to smooth the transition for one group of students in particular.
‘Back From the Front: Transition From the Military to Civilian Life’ is open to new-to-campus veterans who need to fulfill their FYS credit.
Like every FYS class, ‘Back From the Front’ is intended to give students skills they need to be successful in college. Chrisinger’s class is tailored for a group with more life experience than the average freshman.
The class focuses on examining how veterans in past wars handled returning. Students spend time discussing personal experiences and writing about them as a way to organize thoughts.
“A lot of veterans are skeptical when they come here,” Chrisinger said.
Chrisinger is pleased at how the semester has progressed and is proud of his students.
“They already have the skills they need to do well,” Chrisinger said. “There have been a lot of individual- level successes. I’m just really thrilled that the students are receptive to it.”
Kyle Nowak said he took the class to put himself in an uncomfortable position because he does not like doing military-related things.
“One of the challenges is being a couple years older than most college freshmen,” Nowak said. “It is like I am getting a late start, but at the same time I have a lot of life experience.”
Student Joshua Thunder said someone recommended he take the class because it would be a good resource for him.
Thunder said he is not interested in the non-academic skills college provides because he feels his military experience makes him a well-rounded person.
“I just want to gain more job skills and forget about the other things that college really has to offer,” Thunder said.
Thunder said one of the perks of being a student veteran is the GI Bill.
“I don’t necessarily have to work a job to support my wife and I while I am in school,” Thunder said. “This really has helped during my first semester because I do not think I would have stayed in school or done very well if I was trying to juggle it with a job.”
Chrisinger said he was not sure where the semester would go when it began. A class project developed naturally is now the final project for the course.
Each student will write an essay about his or her transition from military to college life and the essays will be published in a collection with a foreword written by acclaimed Iraq War author Brian Castner.
The collection will be available for purchase on Amazon and proceeds will benefit the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Veterans Club.
“The goal is to put a face on veteran experience at this university,” Chrisinger said. “They’ve come to own their own stories.”
“The course helped me be less shy and helped me open up a little, which I definitely attribute to the class and the writings we did,” Nowak said.
“This course has helped me connect with other veterans who I may not have talked to otherwise,” Thunder said.
Chrisinger is impressed with the stories and the way the students are telling them. He hopes to have his students collaborate with other groups in the future so student veteran stories can be told in unique ways.
“When this class ends, it is over,” Chrisinger said. “The collection will help tell the story of veterans at UWSP.”