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Beyond the war zone: ASU's engagement with vets expands

ASU Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement
January 29, 2014

Arizona State University launches the new Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement on Feb. 4. Developed in partnership with the Pat Tillman Veterans’ Center, the office is designed to connect veterans and university communities, and create venues that reflect veterans’ voices and experiences.  

“Veterans are a valuable resource for the university and our community,” says Provost Robert E. Page Jr. “These men and women offer a view on the world that is unique from their fellow students, faculty and staff. Our hope is that this office can help craft veteran-friendly educational settings and serve as a resource for other university and local community colleges, student and alumni veterans’ organizations.” 

The event is from 4 to 6 p.m., Feb. 4, in the Carson Ballroom in Old Main, on the Tempe campus. RSVP to attend:

Having veterans’ voices reflected in education is one of the core goals of this office, says Mark von Hagen, Dean’s Fellow for Veteran Engagement and professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and the School of Politics and Global Studies

“We want to help students from diverse backgrounds successfully navigate and achieve their educational and career goals,” says von Hagen. “War and even peace, the opposite of war, is missing from any kind of forum in higher education.” 

A self-described “Air Force brat,” Von Hagen takes his task to engage and empower veterans personally. His father served as a U.S. counter-intelligence officer in Vienna, during the post-WWII four-power occupation, and later in postings in Korea, France and Germany. Von Hagen says that the younger generation of students is less likely to have parents who have served. Even those that do often don’t get to hear the stories that fathers, mothers and grandfathers tell about war or understand what service in the military entails.

As a historian, von Hagen works to capture the stories of war from those who experienced it through his oral history course, "Oral History: America’s Most Recent Wars," and will expand oral histories and public humanities through the engagement office. He also hopes to identify faculty doing, or interested in doing, research related to vets or military issues and help facilitate the involvement of veteran-students in those researches. In addition, the office will establish an internship program for undergraduates and graduate students from ASU to work in veterans’ organizations.  

Speakers at the launch include Provost Robert E. Page Jr, who is also an Army veteran, Dean Patrick Kenney and Steve Borden, a Naval veteran and director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center. Also participating are ASU professors Rose Weitz, Manuel Aviles-Santiago, Erika Hughes and Karen Roth, who is also an Army veteran. In addition, two undergraduate students will speak about their experiences interviewing veterans, Chloe Westlund, history and political science double major, and Mike Biggs, history and classics double major and Army veteran. 

“Many of the veterans that my students interview mention that no one has really been interested enough to sit down and hear their story from beginning to end,” notes von Hagen. “Death and war are part of humanity. They are things that history, literature and even drama and music can help express.” 

Read more about von Hagen and the ASU Oral History Project: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Magazine and iPad app.