THE INSTITUTE FOR VETERANS AND MILITARY FAMILIES RECEIVES $450,000 GRANT FROM SAM’S CLUB TO SUPPORT WOMEN VETERAN ENTREPRENEURS
Credit Newswise- The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) announced it received a $450,000 grant from Sam’s Club to support women veteran entrepreneurs through its business management training program V-WISE, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship. The Sam’s Club grant helps IVMF to launch the first V-WISE Alumni Chapters in key regions around the nation, in addition to hosting the inaugural V-WISE Graduate Conference. The conference will bring more than 300 V-WISE program graduates together to further cultivate their professional network and learn key business concepts required to take their ventures to the next level. The grant comes at a critical time for women veterans who face employment challenges in today’s economy. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports improvements to the job market, the unemployment rates of female post-9/11 veterans is worsening, increasing from 4.4 percent in March to 7.8 percent in April. Nonetheless, women veterans are interested in business opportunities. A study by Waldman Associates and REDA International found that nearly 27 percent of female veterans were interested in starting or purchasing a business. In recognition of the unique challenges female veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs face, the IVMF launched the V-WISE program in cooperation with the U.S. Small Business Administration. The V-WISE program is tailored to help this distinguished population navigate the complexities of business ownership. The success of the program hinges on the strong entrepreneurial skillset inherent in female veterans and military spouses – strong self-efficacy, a high need for achievement, comfort with autonomy and uncertainty, and effective decision-making in the face of dynamic environments. In June, the program will embark on its 10th iteration, growing its graduate population to nearly 1,500 female veterans. “In developing the graduate level training program, we know that business ownership is not something that happens at a moment in time, but evolves over time,” said IVMF Founder and Executive Director J. Michael Haynie, “V-WISE graduates are at a critical time in their entrepreneurial journey. Now is the time to help these female veterans build and activate a network of business owners and mentors that spans the nation.” The support from Sam’s Club allows IVMF to offer the V-WISE conference at no in-house expense to program graduates, with all lodging and food cost covered. In addition, the launch of the V-WISE Alumni Chapters will help the IVMF further its local strategy and formalize organic meetings of graduates. This combined effort will support the long-term sustainability of the ventures launched by V-WISE graduates. “We are pleased to support all women- and veteran-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs, and to expand the distinguished V-WISE network that helps female veterans grow and prosper,” said Jason Kidd, senior vice president of Sam’s Club South Division. “Sam’s Club welcomes V-WISE alumnae to San Antonio this November and encourages new alumnae chapters to engage Sam’s Club for further small business training, savings and community support.” About Sam's Club Sam's Club, the nation's eighth largest retailer and a leading U.S. membership club, offers savings and surprises to millions of members in 635 U.S. club locations and at SamsClub.com. The Sam's Club Giving Program, established by the Walmart Foundation in 2008, is dedicated to micro- and small business prosperity and committed to investing $32 million over the next five years to U.S. programs dedicated to improved training, education and increased access to capital for small business owners. For more information on national or local giving, visit SamsClub.com/giving. About the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University The IVMF is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Through our focus on veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement, the institute provides in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community captures best practices and serves as a forum to facilitate new partnerships and strong relationships between the individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for veterans and military families.
MILITARY SPOUSE STUDY FINDS 90% OF RESPONDING FEMALE SPOUSES OF ACTIVE DUTY SERVICE MEMBERS ARE UNDEREMPLOYED
Credit Newswise — Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) announce the results of a national study focused on military spouse employment. A major finding was 90% of responding female spouses of active duty service members report being underemployed, meaning they possess more formal education/experience than needed at their current or most recent position. Additionally, the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) data show military spouses make an average of 38% less total personal income and are 30% more likely to be unemployed than civilian counterparts. “The results of the Military Spouse Employment Survey demonstrate a need for concerted efforts to improve the employment issues currently faced by military spouses,” MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan said. “This critical research effort examined the range of economic impacts facing military spouses as a result of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves, licensure constraints, and lack of career enhancing opportunities which come as a result of their spouse’s service,” said IVMF Director of Research, Rosalinda Maury. “Through this project and our partnership with MOAA, we hope that this work will inform the national discussion, helping to create new programs, policies and initiatives that provide resources which will help this community to overcome challenges they face in the pursuit of economic empowerment. The results of this study demonstrate that these challenges are significant and pervasive.” While ACS data consistently show noticeable gaps in income and unemployment between armed forces spouses and their civilian counterparts, this survey discovered there is not a lack of desire to work that is causing these gaps; over 55% of respondents indicated they “need” to work, while 90% indicated they “want” to work. However, active duty military spouses are more likely to have moved within states, across states, and abroad, compared to their civilian and veteran counterparts. The increased likelihood of moving from one geographic location to another further compounds economic issues for these families. According to survey results, other factors affecting their unemployment or underemployment include relocating to geographic locations with limited employment opportunities, employer perceptions of military spouses, inability to match skills and education to jobs, inflexible work schedules and high childcare costs. Other study highlights: • In 2012, 18-24 year-old Armed Forces female spouses had the highest unemployment rates at 30 percent (which is almost three times higher than their civilian counterparts at 11 percent). 25-44 year-old Armed Forces female spouses had the second highest unemployment rates at 15 percent (almost three times higher than their civilian counterparts at 6 percent). • Over 50% of respondents indicated their chosen career field requires licensing or certification and 73% requires renewal/reissuing after a PCS move, costing an average of $223.03. • Respondents reported being underemployed with respect to education (33%), experience (10%), or both (47%). • Income significantly differs based on educational attainment and whether the military spouse is working in their preferred career field. These and other findings, including recommendations to address the issues of military spouse employment are detailed in a summary report entitled, “The Military Spouse Employment Report”. Infographic highlights of the report findings can be found here. “MOAA is very honored to be able to present statistically reliable and informative data about military spouse employment that will help provide the basis for future decision and policy making regarding the well-being of military families,” MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan said
NATIONAL VETERANS RETENTION WORK SURVEY LAUNCHED; IVMF AND VETADVISOR® PARTNER TO GATHER RETENTION DATA
Credit Newswise — The fact that many veterans ultimately leave their initial post-military job is well known, but the reasons behind this attrition and the ways employers can best increase retention have yet to be quantified. In order to gather the necessary data, VetAdvisor® and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) today launched a nationwide Veterans Job Retention Survey. The Veterans Job Retention Survey focuses on determining the reasons why veterans leave their initial post-military jobs. Because this data has not been previously captured, the survey will provide insight into how organizations can best structure their veteran-centric employee programs. All interested veterans and service members are encouraged to participate in the survey. “Better understanding the causes for veteran attrition, and programs and policies that can improve retention, aligns with the mission of IVMF,” states James Schmeling, IVMF Managing Director and Co-Founder. “Our goal is to develop employment-focused programs in collaboration with industry, government, NGOs and the veteran community, to address the primary economic and public policy concerns of our nation’s servicemen and women such as employee retention and career development.” The IVMF is committed to forging enduring partnerships with stakeholders like VetAdvisor® that are committed to supporting transitioning service members, veterans and their families. “We’re thrilled to partner with the IVMF in conducting this nationwide survey of veterans and employers,” says VetAdvisor® CEO Dan Frank. “Developing programs in support of veteran employees is crucial both for organizations interested in retaining the talent they have invested in recruiting, but also for enhancing the career development paths of veterans entering the workforce.” The Veterans Retention Work Survey is part of a continuing effort by VetAdvisor® to develop programs to support veterans as they transition to civilian life. As part of its though leadership in the reintegration issues faced by veterans, VetAdvisor® partnered with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2012 to conduct the National Veteran Sleep Survey in order to better understand the underlying causes of and possible treatments for veteran sleep disorders. The Veterans Job Retention Work Survey will be conducted online at www.retainingvets.org with a goal of recruiting 5,000 participants.
Credit Newswise — The U.S. Senate has approved legislation that will improve the delivery of benefits to America's veterans, bringing them one step closer to gaining further access to the essential services provided by doctors of chiropractic (DCs) at major Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers. S. 1203, the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, passed under unanimous consent and has been referred to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it awaits action. Section 102 of the Act, titled "Expansion of Provision of Chiropractic Care and Services to Veterans," calls for the chiropractic benefit to be carried out at a minimum of two additional medical centers or clinics per Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) no later than two years after enactment of the bill, with the program being implemented at no less than 50 percent of all medical centers in each VISN within three years of enactment. There are nearly 160 VA treatment facilities nationwide. Currently, DCs serve at 66 treatment facilities across the country. Especially important to note in the bill is the further integration of chiropractic services available to veterans, which was broadened to include services provided by DCs under the Preventive Health Services and Medical categories in addition to the existing coverage area of Rehabilitative Services, placing DCs in service categories previously closed to them. "For the past several years, veterans have enjoyed only limited access to the essential services provided by doctors of chiropractic throughout the VISN," said American Chiropractic Association (ACA) President Anthony Hamm, DC. "ACA has worked closely with our congressional allies, such as Sens. jerry Moran and Richard Blumenthal, on behalf of our nation's heroes and in support of this important bill." "I am especially proud that the member institutions that comprise the Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC) will play a pivotal role in preparing the next generation of DCs to serve our military veterans throughout the United States and overseas," said David O'Bryon, JD, CAE, ACC president. "It is important for us to assist with veterans care."The provision comes after a VA report published in June 2015, stated that more than 61 percent of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn veterans who sought health care from the VA over a 13-year period were treated for musculoskeletal ailments. Sen. Moran (R-Kansas), a senior member of the Senate VA Committee, and Sen. Blumenthal (D-Conn.), ranking member of the committee, championed this provision, after introducing S. 398, the "Chiropractic Care Available to all Veterans Act of 2015," from which the pro-chiropractic provisions of the recently passed legislation were derived. Sens. Moran and Blumenthal have been strong supporters of further integrating the essential services provided by DCs to veterans and worked closely with ACA in securing support for this provision in the Senate.ACA believes that the inclusion of services provided by DCs in the VA health care system will speed the recovery of many veterans, especially those returning from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The services provided by DCs have been proven to be a cost-effective and beneficial treatment option. In fact, a 2010 study published in Clinical Rehabilitation found that spinal manipulation provided better short- and long-term functional improvement and more pain relief in follow-up assessments than other physiotherapy interventions. Furthermore, a 2003 study published in the medical journal Spine found that manual manipulation provides better short-term relief of chronic spinal pain than a variety of medications.Prior to congressional intervention over a dozen years ago, no DCs served on the staff of any VA treatment facility. The availability of chiropractic care for eligible veterans was limited to VA "referrals" to DCs serving in private practice outside the VA system. Such referrals were so rare that chiropractic care was essentially non-existent within the VA system.
Credit Newswise — Nearly 100 members of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) community and visitors celebrated the opening of the UTHealth Veterans’ Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) program in Jan. They welcomed the first three VBSN students, who were admitted to the new program this semester. A three-year federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration and a grant from the Vivian L. Smith Foundation are helping launch the program, which will facilitate the transition of United States military veterans into professional nursing by providing an opportunity for up to 10 veterans per semester to receive academic credit for prior military training and experience. To help address the unique needs of veterans, each VBSN student will be matched with a mentor from the U.S. Veteran’s Initiative and will work with a case manager to help them adjust to the rigors and challenges of nursing school. On their dark blue scrubs, U.S. Navy retiree Jason Crume, U.S. Army veteran Laterria Anderson and retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant Robert Duran wore “Veteran” patches provided by the PARTNERS organization and its chair, Roberta Prazak, B.S.N., R.N. Special guest Georgeann McRaven, wife of The University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven, spoke about the importance of “helping veterans continue to serve in civilian life.” She expressed admiration for UTHealth’s “dedication to the welfare and advancement of our vets,” as exemplified by the VBSN program and noted that “education is the absolute key to making a successful transition to civilian life.” As a military spouse for 37 years and mother of a serving Air Force officer, McRaven talked about her “appreciation, respect and reverence for nursing” and the “intangible attributes” that veterans offer employers. McRaven was introduced by UTHealth President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D., who called the VBSN program “another milestone in the university’s mission to support veterans.” After recognizing special guests, UTHealth School of Nursing Dean Lorraine Frazier, Ph.D., R.N., said “none of us would be here without the generosity of our donors who supported us and helped make this program a reality.” Frazier noted that, in 2013, UTHealth School of Nursing became a member of the national “Joining Forces” initiative to increase access to education for veterans and their families. As a result of that commitment, the VBSN program was developed. VBSN program director Bridgette R. Pullis, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor of clinical nursing in the Department of Nursing Systems at the School of Nursing, described the two-year effort to bring the program to reality. She promised “wrap-around service” to support the success of current and future VBSN students, which is planned to reach a total of 60 students in three years. Pullis said that in her own clinical work – much of it at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center – she sees the healing power of the “veteran-to-veteran connection in nursing care.” “When a nursing student is caring for a veteran and the veteran finds out that the student is also a veteran, the air in the room changes, a common bond enables trust and hope,” she said. Veterans interested in the VBSN program can find more information at www.go.uth.edu/vbsn.
Credit Newswise — The Virtual Soldier Research Program at the University of Iowa has been awarded a $2.6 million grant from the Office of Naval Research to create a simulation program to predict and prevent musculoskeletal injuries in U.S. Marines—one of the leading medical problems impeding military readiness. Using the UI’s virtual human male and female models, Santos and Sophia, the researchers will develop software allowing the Marines to use an individual soldier’s characteristics—such as height, weight, strength, and aerobic capacity—to complete virtual simulations in different training environments. The program then will accurately predict injuries and recommend training modifications based on the individual soldier and activity. "Typically, you would have to test hundreds of Marines to get that kind of data,” says Kevin Kregel, UI professor of human physiology and co-principal investigator on the project. “Using our innovative approach, we can do the modeling and predictions by testing a lot fewer human subjects.” Santos and Sophia are part of the UI’s Virtual Soldier Research Program, established in 2003 by Karim Abdel-Malek, professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering and principal investigator on the project. Since the program’s inception, Santos and Sophia have attracted partnerships with U.S. military and private industry, generating $38 million in external research funding for the UI. “Being at the University of Iowa is wonderful because we have an amazing pool of talent and very high ethics of work,” Abdel-Malek says. “Our history of partnering with the U.S. military is evidence that they trust our work and continue to build upon the Santos capabilities.” The Virtual Soldier Research team for this project includes Abdel-Malek; Kregel; Jasbir Arora, professor of civil, environmental and mechanical engineering; Rajan Bhatt, associate director of the program; and Landon Evans, assistant strength and conditioning coach for UI Olympic Sports and adjunct lecturer in physiology. For the first time, this interdisciplinary group will give Santos and Sophia new capabilities in strength and conditioning, such as the ability to grow stronger over time or to experience less muscle weakness with sustained activity. “With these individualized simulations, the soldiers can become more resilient because we know that if they can mitigate themselves against the risk factors of training, the likelihood of reducing injuries increases,” Evans says. In addition, researchers predict soldiers who are injured fewer times during their service would be less likely to suffer from musculoskeletal disorders later in life, a leading cause of health problems in veterans. The UI findings could also have broader implications beyond the military. Kregel says the virtual human technology could help rehabilitate people of all ages—particularly older adults—with musculoskeletal injuries. And Evans says the UI athletics department is keeping a close eye on the project for its potential use among student athletes, who could benefit from the customized training recommendations and insight.
Credit Newswise — As social media has grown to become a ubiquitous part of contemporary American culture, scholars are studying its capacities for both good and ill. Lisa Ellen Silvestri, assistant professor of communication studies at Gonzaga University, explores how Facebook and YouTube have transformed soldiers’ experiences at the frontlines of war in her book, “Friended at the Front: Social Media in the American War Zone” (2015, University Press of Kansas). In a major shift in the wartime experience of American soldiers, their loved ones and the public, Facebook and other social media now offer troops the ability to instantly communicate to their networks of family and friends that they are alive, notes Silvestri, who earned a Ph.D. in communication studies from the University of Iowa. Informed by in-person interviews and online fieldwork with Marines, Silvestri’s book documents how new media have impacted the attitudes and behaviors of troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book also reviews the military’s developing guidelines for social media use – including some of its complications – and explores the current relationship between American soldiers and their social media pages from the frontlines of war. Silvestri grew up in Philadelphia, the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran who was drafted in 1966. “I grew up in that stereotypical Vietnam household where we just didn’t really talk about it,” said Silvestri, whose research centers on American politics and popular culture with a special focus on war and emergent communication technologies. “But it was something you could feel.” Her brother Jason enlisted in ROTC at Penn State University, graduated in 1999 as an officer, and received a scholarship to attend medical school. He was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and Afghanistan in 2013. Through some of the experiences of her father and brother, Silverstri developed a deep interest in war and how communication impacts military personnel. She interviewed 30 Marines from bases in Okinawa, Japan and Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California, and studied the Facebook pages of nine Marines. Through her interactions with American soldiers both at home and overseas, Silvestri learned that turning a human story into a book is both difficult and emotionally taxing. “The emotional toll of working with people is really hard,” Silvestri said. “People are so messy and unpredictable, and also they are so fragile and beautiful. To try and represent them in 12 point Times New Roman is really difficult to do.” At Gonzaga, Silvestri brings her expertise in social media and the digital age to her students – encouraging them to find their “unique voice” through the growing array of digital tools to present and analyze their ideas. “We’re all journalists to some degree with our cameras,” said Silvestri, who combines her experience with communication theories to teach students how to become proficient consumers and creators of quality digital information. “It comes directly out of my experience of writing this book, because I know that I had something unique, and that gave me a unique perspective and a unique voice. And it helped me write. So I’m trying to get my students to embrace that as well,” she said. During her students’ finals presentations last semester, Silvestri saw everything from the ways in which emoticons stifle emotional vocabulary to examples of how the Dark Knight and Batman reflect political policies on terrorism. She is pleased to see her students find their perspective through trial and error, much like she has done. She’s especially proud to see them looking for ways to use their skills and education to help others – in the centuries-old Jesuit tradition. “The students here are so invested, and they don’t just want to succeed, they really want to understand it so they can be men and women for others,” said Silvestri.
Credit Newswise — Research conducted by Dr. Taylor Plumb and Dr. Diane Zelman from the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University shows high rates of disturbed sleep and indicators of possible sleep disorders experienced by current and former military personnel who served in Afghanistan or Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). These findings highlight the need to provide regular and detailed assessment of sleep among individuals who have been deployed in OIF/OEF, and the need to adapt and evaluate behavioral treatments for insomnia and nightmares to address sleep disturbances among OEF and OIF personnel and veterans. The research was conducted as a part of Dr. Plumb's doctoral dissertation, under Dr. Zelman's supervision. They surveyed the types, severity and correlates of sleep disturbances experienced by 375 current or former military personnel (84.7% male) who served in Afghanistan or Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The participants had returned from deployment over the last five years. A high percentage of military personnel reported disrupted sleep, even many months following deployment. 56.3% of participants reported their sleep as "bad" or "very bad" within the last month. Participants reported experiencing delayed sleep onset (40.5%) and middle of the night awakenings (58.6%) at least 3 times a week. Other reported sleep symptoms experienced at least once a week included feelings of general nervousness (46.1%), anxiety/panic (26.7%), and nightmares (trauma related: 30.2%, not trauma related: 26.9%). A large percentage of military personnel reported sleep onset, sleep efficiency, and total sleep time at levels similar to those of persons with sleep disorders (45.4%, 55.9% and 21.4% respectively). Although sleep problems were considerably more common and severe among individuals who scored over clinical cut-points for PTSD, depression and anxiety, sleep problems were also extremely common (30- 42%) among those who did not exceed cut-points for any of these disorders. Greater combat exposure, female gender, divorced or widowed status, lower education and lower rank was associated with significantly greater sleep problems.
KEY POINTS * Military veterans smoke more than non-veterans.* Health information offered on veteran service organization websites rarely mentioned tobacco use and never mentioned smoking cessation. Credit Newswise — Studies have shown that U.S. military veterans smoke at a higher rate than civilians. Websites targeting veterans, however, fail to provide information about the risks of tobacco products and how to quit smoking, finds a new report in the American Journal of Health Promotion. “The military, which is its own subculture, still has one of the highest rates of tobacco use of any occupational group, both smoking and smokeless,” said lead study author Walker S. Carlos Poston, Ph.D., M.P.H. at the Institute for Biobehavioral Health Research of the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. Veterans service organizations (VSO) should provide more online support for smoking cessation, the authors said, because “veterans who smoke are less likely to quit, they have been specifically targeted by the tobacco industry, and there is evidence that the military still provides a supportive atmosphere for tobacco use and initiation, such as substantially discounted cigarettes for active military and eligible veterans and retirees and the lack of consistent tobacco control policy enforcement.” Researchers evaluated websites for veteran service organizations such as the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars, all of which differ substantially in the range of veterans they serve. They found 277 health topics addressed on 24 websites, the top five of which were insurance issues, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), disability and amputation, Agent Orange, and traumatic brain injury. “Tobacco-related content was virtually nonexistent,” they said. Tobacco was mentioned only 4 times across all 24 websites and smoking cessation was never mentioned. Tobacco use impacts active military and veterans with smoke-related illnesses like pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and worsens PTSD symptoms. It also negatively impacts family members—due to increased health care costs and caregiver burdens. The military does offer a free state-of-the-art “quit smoking” program, and a telephone quit line for active duty and veterans, Poston said. “That’s good, since smoking costs the military a lot more than other habits, including overeating and resulting problems of overweight and obesity.” The authors suggested a number of concrete ideas to increase VSO awareness and engagement around the topic of tobacco use. For example, providing VSOs with training for smoking cessation peer interventionists for prospective quitters and encouraging VSOs to include smoking cessation materials on their Web sites and provide links to the respective state quit telephone lines and other public domain smoking cessations resources, including the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health and the American Legacy Foundation. “I can’t say I’m shocked by the findings. It was both impressive and depressing how little mention there was of tobacco use or smoking cessation on the websites,” said Harry A. Lando Ph.D., a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology and Community Health. “But I would have thought there’d be at least more mention of tobacco on the websites.” The military can be a breeding ground for taking up smoking, he said. “It seems it would be very low cost to implement some of the recommendations the authors made, to put some of that information on websites about quitting, or to include other resources.”
Credit Newswise — If you think interior design is all about paint colors, fabric swatches and furniture styles, think again. Because students in an Iowa State University graduate studio have propelled interior design to a place it's never been before: the 21st century combat outpost. Students in the advanced experimental studio class created environments that support combat soldiers' mental health and help alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder. (PTSD). Their designs balance privacy and connection, relaxation and security, meditation and activity. The 1920s cots (yes, they're still used), standard-issue tents and hanging-poncho privacy dividers are replaced with individual spaces that soldiers can personalize and control. Communal spaces are strong and masculine; personal spaces are soft and soothing. Believed to be the only class of its kind, "In Harm's Way: Interior Design for Modern Combat" is the brainchild of Interior Design Professor and Chair Lee Cagley. "I've been working on this for several years, since watching a TV feature on PTSD. Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan spoke eloquently about the fact that they were never able to relax; the outpost tents never felt really safe. They couldn't talk about their fears or feelings and felt that their needs were not valued," he said. "It struck me that what they were talking about was fundamentally an interior design problem — the combat outpost environment wasn't supporting the troops emotionally," Cagley said. "The idea for the class was to rethink the outpost so the combat experience can be mitigated in some way by the environment." Tricky logisticsThe logistics — like getting site plans for a typical forward base in an active combat zone — have been tricky, Cagley said. But "once it happened," members of ISU's ROTC have "cooperated enthusiastically." Retired Air Force civil engineering technician Joseph Pasquantino, Hartford, Connecticut, helped move Cagley's idea forward. While in the military, Staff Sgt. Pasquantino was part of the engineering unit that designed and set up tent cities for bases in forward deployed locations, beginning with Desert Shield/Desert Storm. He provided the class with extensive information on combat-forward base requirements and design, which have not changed significantly since World War I, according to Cagley. Pasquantino has remained involved with the class, attending reviews throughout the semester. "Anyone who has been deployed knows there is no privacy, no escape from the job. And as hard as the military tries to provide some rest and relaxation, a few days here and there really doesn't help," Pasquantino said. "Being able to provide a customizable space for a soldier or airman to escape to daily would greatly improve their quality of life and possibly reduce the effects or occurrence of PTSD," Pasquantino said. Into the futureThe six interior design grad students in the class are Yongyeon Cho, Josh Kassing, Maricel Lloyd, Miranda Spears, Nathan Thiese and Zhenru Zhang. Alex Ausenhus, an industrial design grad student interested in the topic, is working on a separate, but compatible, device design (see sidebar below). The students researched and documented their design process while creating a combat outpost for 144 soldiers in about 2022. They were asked to design environments unlike anything else, using technologies and materials not yet widely available. Their designs had to include all operations of a typical base — from laundry, billeting and mess hall to armory, helipad and medical. The class visited Camp Dodge to see a practice outpost facility used for set-up and teardown training prior to the Iraq War. Master Sgt. Christopher Shaiko, Sgt. 1st Class Joey Bowman, and Human Resources Assistant Mike Tate (all with ISU ROTC) spoke to the class about what it's like to be in a combat-forward position and the inadequacy of current outposts. Diverse solutionsOne student designed an underground Zen Center with space for a chapel and private reflection; another used technology that enables soldiers to control their environment through light and sound. Another student conceived of acoustical seclusion for a soldier using headphones, but with a transparent fabric partition to prevent total isolation. One vernacular design used color and form to blend the base into its surroundings and another designed a camouflage city under one roof to protect the identity of base functions from overhead attack. Yet another student designed flexible structural elements that can be manipulated according to the interior space's function. Several students converted wasted vertical space into useable living space and specified modular components to simplify manufacturing, shipping and installation. Some called for blast-resistant materials to increase safety. Others proposed courtyards and gardens and moved bathrooms and showers closer to the billeting area. "All the solutions are remarkably different from one another," Cagley said. "They've been done with an eye for advanced experiential — they may not be the most practical but they're the most forward thinking." Student experienceAlthough grad student Lloyd is a veteran, she was not deployed into combat. Her husband was, however. And he lived in the combat outpost in Mosul, Iraq. "Interior design is about the experience [of an environment] so it's perfect for finding a solution to this problem," she said. "PTSD is something you can't see or fix for the person. But creating a space where they can feel safe — yet connected to battle buddies — is an important solution our studio can offer to mitigate PTSD." While Lloyd admits that her familiarity with the effects of war might be an advantage in the class, she said her knowledge of the military's conventional approach to problem solving is a hindrance. "A lot of the creative process that goes into design is fostered by the ability to see beyond conventional solutions. But dealing with the military's standard operating procedures left me with blinders of practicality. That's been my challenge in this class," Lloyd said. For Josh Kassing, the class has presented a different challenge. "I was completely illiterate about what a military operation looks like. I've never had to put myself in a tent in an active combat zone. What does it look like at night? Does it feel like a home or a safe place?" Kassing said. "I had to understand that before I could do the design. Putting myself into a situation that I would never normally be in has been interesting and really different from our other usually luxurious design projects. We're putting ourselves into an inherently difficult position and then designing for it. It's complex to negotiate," he said. And that was an intended lesson of the class. "They've learned that design isn't necessarily just a discretionary spend. Design can genuinely save life, and perhaps even prevent some of the needless suicides," Cagley said. "The students have taken an entirely different look at what interior design in particular is capable of, and how the profession can claim a significant stake in shaping the future of our country and the lives of its citizens. It's clear they've discovered how socially relevant and urgently needed their skills actually are," he said. Cagley and Industrial Design Assistant Professor Will Prindle will apply for a grant from the Department of Defense to design and construct some prototypes of the students' designs at Camp Dodge. If all goes well, a design-build studio will do the work in the spring of 2017. (Sidebar)Healing the invisible woundAlex Ausenhus, an industrial design graduate student, is "in an orbit around us, working on a device design that is compatible with the concepts of this class," said Lee Cagley, interior design professor and chair. His design for an application that addresses post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) head on is "genius and thoughtful," Cagley said. As Ausenhus learned in his historical research, the mental health condition was called "nervous exhaustion of yellow bellies" in the Civil War; "battle fatigue" necessitating dishonorable discharge in World Wars I and II; and shell shock in the Vietnam era. In the 1980s, the condition became known as PTSD. Between 15 and 30 percent of soldiers returning from combat in recent years suffer from PTSD. Ausenhus created an app that allows soldiers to orally record a completely confidential account of daily events, including how they felt during and after a battle. It's designed to help soldiers get through a particularly challenging or stressful situation. The app has a lock code, is not connected to Wi-Fi and is inaccessible to the military. The app flags terrible days and alerts the soldier when those red flags add up to susceptibility to PTSD. Ausenhus designed the device as a small tablet, with a steel and Kevlar bulletproof covering. It can be worn suspended behind a bulletproof vest as a thin addition to body armor that can be used hands-free and privately. "At the end of a 30-day mission, the soldier can listen and hear the emotion experienced during events," Ausenhus said. "It's simply a way to record, 'This is what happened and this is how I felt.'" Ausenhus calls the device "Ruck up," which, in the military, means to get through a difficult situation. Cagley said it could also be useful for patients of grief counselors and other mental health practitioners.