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CLC offers 'Combat to Classroom' course for fall

Don Pfeffer, the state's higher education veterans program director and a counselor at CLC.

Central Lakes College in Brainerd is offering an innovative course starting with the fall 2010 semester: "From Combat to the Classroom - the Transition of Combat Veterans and Their Families."

The two-credit course will be taught by Don Pfeffer, the state's higher education veterans program director and a counselor at CLC. The class will meet Wednesdays from 1:45-3:35 p.m.

Pfeffer is a Vietnam-era veteran. He directed the development of the Veterans Resource Center at the Brainerd and Staples campuses of CLC and spearheaded the development of Minnesota's 59 campus centers for veterans.

"This course is for veterans, family members, and anyone else with a strong interest in the military," he said. "We will start by examining what it means to be a veteran or family member of a veteran and move along the path of life after military service."

The American Council on Education supports the effort to assimilate veterans into the fabric of higher education through courses such as the one at CLC and similar courses at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Cleveland State University in Ohio.

Having the course open for family members of veterans is a key element to making it relevant, Pfeffer said. "By supporting the veteran's family we support the military member."

An estimated 70 percent of the members of the military are married.

"Many veterans face personal, relationship, education, and employment issues upon completing a tour of duty in the military," said James H. McCormick, chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. A course that focuses on veterans "will go a long way toward ensuring that veterans adjust to college and return successfully to civilian life."

Students will have many resources, such as books, articles, and documents related to military history and common issues. Pfeffer said he will employ a multimedia delivery of curriculum as well as hands-on activities.

"There will be videos, movies, and in-depth topic exploration," he said.

Pfeffer will lead students through the transition by focusing on issues that are emotional, physical, financial, familial, and cultural to help veterans and their loved ones reconnect. They will examine Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Two textbooks that students can expect to use in the class are "War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation's Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" (2005) by Edward Tick and a variety of other books documenting veterans' and family experiences.

While the course is an elective, the credits count toward a college degree. One major goal of the course is to reduce an unfortunate statistic - approximately 30 percent of veterans drop out of college in their first term.

At Cleveland State, a similar course designed for student veterans has improved the success rate to the point that veterans exceed the traditional student success rate.

Students will work as a cohort to demonstrate civic engagement with a symposium project focusing on services for veterans at the college or in the community.

The fall semester at CLC starts Aug. 23.