With their tours of duty over in Iraq and Afghanistan, many American combat veterans are returning home and seeking college degrees. While some easily make the transition, others need help, says an Auburn University faculty member who is an authority on the education needs of returning veterans.
David DiRamio, an assistant professor of adult and higher education in the AU College of Education, said some veterans, especially those who have been in military service for a long time, have lost a sense of what life was before being sent into combat and may need assistance and encouragement to adjust to collegiate life.
“In the coming years, as combat veterans in the tens of thousands enroll in colleges following their service in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are likely to require support services,” DiRamio said. “We expect that 90 percent of veterans will attend 200 colleges and universities in this country. Auburn University is one of those institutions.”
DiRamio, who is a Navy veteran, has co-authored two articles, pending publication in academic journals, about Iraq-Afghan veterans as college students. One of the articles is a multi-campus interview project, “From Combat to Campus: Voices of Student Veterans.” That project, which originated from research at three college campuses, focuses on the needs of veterans on college campuses and ways institutions can assist them.
The Auburn faculty member said education needs of returning veterans strike a special cord with him. “My work today in the area of veterans’ educational and transitional needs was indeed influenced by my own experiences,” he explained.
DiRamio entered college after serving in the U.S. Navy from 1980-86. “Like many of the veterans that I am studying now, I used my G.I. benefits to attend college for the first time,” he said.
But the transition to college was not easy. “I remember how rusty my academic skills were after being out of school for so long,” he said. “However, I persevered and ended up going on to complete a doctorate in education.”
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he returned to his hometown after completing his Navy service. He earned a bachelor’s degree and an M.B.A. from New York University at Buffalo and then went on to earn his doctorate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Along with his research on veterans’ educational needs, DiRamio also serves as the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ liaison for an American Council on Education initiative, “Severely Injured Military Veterans: Fulfilling Their Dream.” In that role, he helps locate sponsors at cooperating colleges and universities to aid the transition of disabled veterans to college when they complete rehabilitation at military hospitals.
“On a personal level, it is gratifying to help a severely wounded veteran move forward in his or her transition to civilian life, including attending college,” DiRamio said.