In January 2020, the University of Utah Board of Trustees approved the Veterans Studies Certificate, a brand-new way for U students to learn about the experiences, challenges, and strengths of those who have served in the military.
As one of only four higher education institutions in the nation offering this kind of certificate or minor, the U will be on the forefront of educating students of all majors and disciplines about the military experience through courses like “Growing from Traumatic Life Experiences,” “The Korean War” and “Writing About War.”
One of the most popular courses has been “Writing About War” offered through the Department of Writing & Rhetoric Studies. Many of the students enrolled in the course have no military experience—just a desire to learn more about veterans. Professor Maximillian Werner, who teaches the class, reached out to the Veterans Support Center when he realized there was a huge level of interest from students in gaining perspective about vets. After years of planning and in collaboration with Amy Bergerson, associate dean of Undergraduate Studies the right puzzle pieces were put in place, and the certificate is a reality.
“It includes 24 credit hours—covering things like government and national security, history of war and violent conflict, social and ethical aspects of war and health. It all culminates in a capstone,” said Paul Morgan, director of the Veterans Support Center. “And it doesn’t matter what major you are. If you want this certificate, you can get it.”
Morgan explained that people going into HR, law enforcement, counseling or government work would obviously benefit from getting the certificate, but that its benefits are far-reaching. With over 18.2 million veterans in the country, the chances of this certificate and its educational tenants being beneficial to anyone, socially or in the workplace, are huge.
Students will have a deeper understanding of what it means to engage in active military service, what social and political circumstances veterans encounter during and after they serve, and the physical consequences of serving – both in and out of combat.
“I want to make this the most veteran-friendly university in the Rockies,” Morgan said. “The next closest school offering a certificate like this is in St. Louis. We’re the only one in the west.”
In July 2019, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had more than 4,500 job listings nationwide, 95 of which were in Utah. Setting students up for success in jobs like these is a huge motivator of the program—the capstone class even involves designing a practical project and working with vets in the area to implement what the classes have instilled, giving recipients of the certificate a head start.
Most of the classes already exist, but being bundled in this way and culminating in the capstone, the program will give those pursuing the certificate a unique perspective on the military experience.
“This program is based on the hope that a certificate that focuses on the varied experiences of veterans during a time of war and the aftermath, will produce an informed, empathetic and committed support network,” said Martha Bradley Evans, dean of Undergraduate Studies.