an initiative at Virginia Tech
What we do
The Veterans in Society initiative at Virginia Tech has supported the scholarly understanding of veterans among citizens, and as citizens, since 2011. It has always sought to bring together multiple insights – of veterans and civilians; of academics, practitioners, and non-specialists; of faculty, students, staff, and the community.
Our initiative is not simply for veterans of this or that country nor about veterans of this or that historical moment. We honor the work of veterans to sustain one another carrying their distinctive military experiences though civilian life. We respect applied scholarship in medicine, economics, and public policy. But ours is an inclusive enterprise that aspires to improve understanding of what it means, subjectively and socially, to be a veteran in civil society - taking seriously the myriad of military, semi-military, and post-military experiences and diversity of persons and social contexts through which they work out.
From modest beginning in 2013, our signature “ViS” conference series has encouraged research and engagement that transcend the boundaries of popular stereotypes, nationalities, eras, and modes of military service in peace and in war. As the conferences grew, we explicitly incorporated arts as ways to engage scholars and the community affectively, creating opportunities for conversations that would not ordinarily happen.
Scholars of similar and complementary interest discovered one another, and networks are emerging around veterans studies as an academic field anchored in the liberal arts tradition. From the start, we have invited conference presenters to make their work available to the world on an open-access basis in the university digital repository, complementing the Journal of Veterans Studies (hosted by Virginia Tech Publishing) and the open-access journals such as Military Experience and the Arts that were pioneers in humanistic veterans studies.
Veterans in Society gatherings:
2013: Changing the Discourse [Read proceedings]
2014: Humanizing the Discourse [Proceedings]
2016: NEH summer institute for university faculty: Ambiguities & Representations [See archive menu, above]
2018: Veterans, Globalized: Veterans and their societies in international perspective [Forthcoming.]
Our conferences and other projects became popular enough that we worked within out network to found the Veterans Studies Association to oversee JVS and rotate ViS conferences among campuses.
Veterans Studies Association ViS events:
2020: Veteran Identity, Advocacy, and Representation. Hosted by University of Missouri - St Louis. Cancelled by Covid-19. [See detailed program]
2021: Conversations in Veterans Studies online symposium. Hosted by Virginia Tech. [Program with link to recording]
2022: Resilience, Pedagogy, and Veterans Studies. Hosted by Arizona State University. [Program with link to recorded livestreams]
We have hosted meetings of faculty from across the country to discuss how instructional programs in veterans studies have worked and how new ones might evolve on our campus and elsewhere.
Our neighbors at Radford University asked us to coordinate our 2015 conference with regional Big Read programs (funded by the National Endowment for the Arts) that centered on Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Among other contributions, the Veterans in Society initiative brought O’Brien to speak at the conference and again in a free event for the public. Concurrently, we were invited to be partners and consultants in two grant proposals by other scholars on our own campus.
The 2016 summer institute, archived and built upon in this site, was a natural extension of our work.
We invite you to join us advance the study of veterans in society -- not as a field simply for veterans, nor something civilians do about veterans, but rather a set of lenses for perceiving and interpreting all-too-human experiences of conflict, adjustment, and perhaps reconciliation and reintegration.