CTL: Center for Teaching and Learning

Veteran and Active Duty Students Suggestions for the Classroom

 Written by Tiara Good

First and foremost, Veteran and Active-duty students are students. They come from all walks of life and each individual brings their own unique contributions, goals, hopes and challenges. 

Please keep in mind that Veteran and Active-duty student stereotypes are not typical and that these students bring valuable perspectives to the classroom. 


Let Veteran and Active-Duty students self-identify.

  • Try not to put Veteran and Active-Duty in situations that demand or overtly prompt disclosure. Comfortability with disclosure varies widely.
  • Offer respect for the student's service privately in office hours or areas out of range from other students. Doing so in front of other students may cause discomfort or set the student apart from civilian peers.

Exercise sensitivity with apprehension about group work.

Group work in a military setting often involves life or death situations. Thus, group work in the classroom may be challenging. Consider alternative assignments if your Veteran or Active-duty student requests it or if you observe discomfort.

Planning, organizing and teaching about group work can help students work together productively.

Let students choose their seats in classrooms.

Some classrooms have door/window placement that can exacerbate vigilance and tactical awareness. Letting your students select their own seats alleviates this anxiety.

Exercise good classroom control.

Some students may express frustration with their civilian peers because they are not paying attention, or not adhering to other codes of conduct. One way to get everyone in the class on board for civil behavior is to craft a learning agreement. Also, Carnegie Mellon's CTL offers solutions to a wide range of classroom management issues. 

Be sensitive with totalizing statements made about war (current or past).

  • These statements may raise the level of discomfort for the student in your class, or worse, make the student lose their connection with their Professor because they feel as though they are misperceived or misunderstood.
  • Veteran stereotypes are not always positive. Students may perceive a totalizing statement as a direct insult for what they were and may still strongly identify with.

Treat VA-related and Military service related absences as University-sanctioned absences.

  • Sometimes Active-duty students are called upon for duty with little notice. Flexibility and understanding are key for these students to succeed and stay in school.
  • Post-traumatic stress accommodations may include absences/tardiness. The Office of Disability Services has protocols in place for those specific cases. 

Campus Resources for More Information and Referral

Trust and connection with as many people on campus as possible aids in retention and ultimately a better experience for the student as they navigate reintegration and assimilation challenges. Here are a few campus resources that may be of use to you and your students:


Stephen Tamm

Coordinator of Veterans’ Services




Disability Services



Doug Steele

Director of Student Counseling, Student Health, and Disability Services



Traci Birdsell

Director of TRIO Programs



Tiara Good

Assistant Professor in Communication Arts