Supporting Student Veterans: Utilizing Game-Based Role-Plays with Virtual Humans to Build Military Cultural Competency and Helping Behaviors in Faculty and Staff

Chris Andrew Cate, Glenn Albright


Veterans and military service members enter the classroom with valuable life and leadership experience; however, transitioning to student life represents unique challenges. Like the larger veteran population, student veterans may bring to campus the negative aftereffects of their combat experiences in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress, substance abuse, depression, and thoughts of suicide. To better support and retain the nation’s growing number of student veterans, higher-education institutions are beginning to train faculty and staff to more effectively understand and meet the needs of student veteran populations. This study examines the impact of a new and innovative game-based virtual training simulation where users role-play with emotionally responsive virtual student veterans to understand the unique value veterans bring to campus, the obstacles they face in their pursuit of a college degree, effective tactics for managing challenging conversations and the best practices for connecting student veterans exhibiting signs of psychological distress with appropriate support services. Longitudinal data showed significant (p<.01) and sustained increases in learners’ military cultural competency which included knowledge about the common challenges facing the student veterans, and preparedness to manage classroom discussions around veteran sensitive issues and to talk with a student veteran about their military service and if necessary, make a referral to the appropriate campus office. Data also showed significant (p<.01) and sustained increases in gatekeeper skills which included the learners preparedness, likelihood and self efficacy to help a student veteran in psychological distress which resulted in increased referrals to support services.


Student veterans, college staff training, military cultural competency, game-based role-plays

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