CSUN Celebrates Veterans Awareness Week

  • Jimmie Jakes

    Jimmie Jakes (right), retired Marine Corp veteran, now counsels other student veterans at CSUN in the Veterans Resource Center. He served for 30 years in the military and is now earning a master's in social work. Photo by Nestor Garcia.

When Jimmie Jakes took his first class at California State University, Northridge this fall, his biggest challenge wasn’t getting used to the academic rigor after a 30-year absence. Jakes had to overcome stereotypes about his military service in the Marine Corps and educate students, faculty and staff about how to work with student veterans.

“Because of our training, many of us approach life differently,” Jakes said. “We’re used to taking orders, and we don’t generally like to waste time. We like to get our jobs done.”

Jakes will be one of the panelists speaking this week during CSUN’s Veterans Awareness Week celebration, Monday, Nov. 10, through Friday, Nov. 14. The campus is closed on Tuesday, Nov. 11, in observance of the Veterans Day holiday. The week’s activities include a panel discussion about the student-veteran experience, a VRC block party celebration and a comedy night.

The 50-year-old Northridge master’s student in social work retired from the Marines in 2013 and enrolled at CSUN because he liked the campus’ atmosphere. He now works as an intern in the Veterans Resource Center, where he counsels student veterans.

“I really hope the campus comes out to our programs this week to learn more about veterans and the services on campus,” Jakes said. “We’re like any other student in some ways, but we have some different life experiences.”

CSUN has about 750 student veterans, one the largest populations of student veterans in the CSU system, said Mark Stevens, director of CSUN’s University Counseling Services. While all CSU campuses provide veteran services, CSUN’s Veterans Resource Center is one of the few stand-alone centers systemwide that help students transition from military life to academia.

In addition to participating in Veteran Awareness Week activities, Stevens is encouraging faculty and staff to enroll in Kognito Interactive Training. University Counseling Services and the Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing have worked together to bring the training to CSUN. The online, interactive training program uses virtual role-playing to help faculty and staff learn more about the needs and experiences of student veterans. Unlike other sensitivity and military cultural-competency training programs, veterans on campus use intelligent avatars and virtual environments to enhance the learning experience. Through these avatars, faculty and staff engage in simulated conversations with three virtual student veterans, helping each one resolve a challenge they are facing as a result of reintegration.

“We think many faculty and staff will be enriched by taking this training and learning how to help student veterans make a successful transition,” Stevens said. “You never know if you have a student veteran in your class. The training is very informative and eye-opening.”

For more information, contact University Counseling Services at (818) 677-2366, and choose option 1. To enroll, visit Kognito Interactive. Click “access training” and follow the on-screen instructions to enroll using: CSUN42.