By Taylor Klusman

The Razorback Reporter

The civilian disconnect that veterans face after they are hired raises challenges in the workplace, according to a study commissioned by Blue Star Families (BSF), an organization that advocates for veterans.

BSF conducts a yearly survey featuring Military Family Lifestyle results and organizes the information gathered into various public resources on their website, including an executive survey, a comprehensive infographic and a comprehensive report.

In the resulting information, researches at BSF found that out of the 8,390 military interviewees, 79 percent “do not believe military compensation is keeping up with civilian compensation,” and 88 percent “feel general public does not understand sacrifices made by service members and their families.”

The 2016 data displays its most concerning information regarding veterans at the top of page one on the infographic, the charted statistics revealing that military pay and benefits is the most troubling aspect of life for 56 percent of veterans polled.

This top choice was directly followed by change in retirement and benefits, number of military personnel suicides, PTSD and employment.

“The disconnect exists because of what we, as civilians, don’t understand about the military involvement,” Jay Green, Administrator for the AR State Veterans Home of Fayetteville, said. “It’s like a group or club that they all experienced and we didn’t, and so we can’t understand what it was or what it felt like.”

The Service Year Alliance is an organization attempting to make young Americans serving the nation for at least a year a common expectation.

“When veterans engage in a paid service year, we see good results,” EJ Delpero, the Military and Veterans Fellow for the Service Year Alliance, said. “These opportunities provide transitional support from the military because it takes time to adjust to the civilian world, new skills can be acquired, more connections are made, and all of this ultimately boils down to increased career opportunities.”

This organization works to lessen the divide between military and civilians through this adjustment period while simultaneously striving to educate civilians regarding the costs veterans pay for their service.

“Right now, less than 1 percent of our population serves in the military,” General (Ret.) Stan McChrystal, chairman of Service Year Alliance, said. “And, in my view, we need to rethink and create a system where every young American has an opportunity to serve their nation in other ways.”

Under the mental health and wellness section of the survey, 40 percent of active duty participants said they feel that seeking mental health care would harm their career, further establishing the idea that many veterans do not feel able to request help when they need it.

“I think it’s easier to bridge the divide with this age group than it is with younger veterans because they’ve had the time to come to terms with their service, it’s not fresh in their minds like it is for veterans who’ve just recently come back,” Green said.

Multiple companies actively and publically are working to resolve such conflicts and many are discovering successful methods of bridging the divide.

“Taking off the uniform does not necessarily represent that one is done serving their country,” Delpero said. “In other words, with service year programs, veterans are donning a new uniform.”

UA: Applications from international students down this year

By Taylor Klusman

The Razorback Reporter

The UofA has seen a decrease in applications from international students this year, a trend shared by many other universities across the nation.

The first early admissions letters for the freshman class of 2022 have been sent to numerous accepted students, but the most recent travel ban went into effect Oct. 18.

Nearly 820,000 international students were enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities in the 2012-13 year, according to Pew Research Center.

This decrease occurring at many US universities could have a large impact on the country, given that international students bring over $32 billion a year into the U.S. economy, according to the Institute of International Education.

Only two years ago international students numbered 1,545, while as of 2017’s fall semester there are 1,461 international students.

“Overall enrollment is also on a positive trajectory,” Jim Coleman, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, said. “Nearly 6,000 students earned degrees last year, and this fall we welcomed nearly 5,100 freshmen. So, once again the university has record enrollment, but we are starting to see that our efforts to stabilize our growth are having some success.”

While total enrollment may still be increasing, the UofA is not alone in this decline of international students applying to US colleges.

“This is a fantastic time to be at the University of Arkansas,” UofA Chancellor Joseph E. Steinmetz said during his State of the University speech in September before the latest ban was announced.

Nearly 40 percent of the 250 colleges interviewed reported seeing a drop in applications from foreign students, according to the results of a survey initiated by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Other universities, such as Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh which is ranked in the top seven schools that attract the most international students, show a continued increase in their population of foreign students.

In the time span of a year, fall 2015 to fall 2016, Carnegie Mellon rose by 220 international students, one of their slower years for foreign students that still manages to outnumber even the highest jump the UofA saw in the past 10 years.

“Applications continue to increase, though we are aiming for freshman classes of 5,000 for the foreseeable future,” Suzanne McCray, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions, said of the New Arkansan NRTA.

The University of Southern California has among the highest international student population among US universities, according to Michael Quick, USC Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“We are proud to have, and we are better by having, a richly diverse community.  We will do everything we can to ensure all of our academic community can continue to study, research, and teach at USC,” Quick said.

One of the UofA’s major scholarships, the New Arkansan Non-Resident Tuition Award, is granted to incoming freshmen with a 3.30 or higher cumulative high school GPA and an ACT score of at least 24 or an equivalent 1160 SAT score, but this does nothing to encourage international attendance.

“It is the same award, though we have tightened the requirements over the last couple of years,” said McCray.

In 2016, the US saw more than 65,000 people from countries now listed on the travel ban immigrate to the US or use visas, which are now also banned.

By the People: Designing a Better America

By Veronica Torres

The Razorback Reporter

Design can influence everyday life through transportation and environmental sectors in a positive or negative way. The Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design brought the exhibit “By the People: Designing a Better America” from the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. This exhibit shows designers making influences throughout communities in the United States in a socially responsible way.

“The goal of this exhibit is to research and study how communities can influence every aspect of the design world,” junior James Hull said. “How people can come together, make and design elements that will help their social or economic downfalls.”

Design can influence everyday life in many ways.

“It could be where bus routes are placed along a road, or where there are bikes lanes,” Hull said. “Having designated green spaces and parks can impact the morale of a community.”

Students are incorporating design into communities within their class curriculum.

“I’m working on a class project right now where we are thinking of a library as a community center instead of a regular library,” Hull said. “A place where people can gather, learn, and explore are often goals of designers when designing for communities.”

Community design is about the change in the community that makes the community more efficient and easier for the people in the area, Hull said.

By the People: Designing a Better America is on display 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Vol Walker Hall for students to visit. This exhibit leads up to two events with Cynthia E. Smith.

Smith will have a gallery talk at noon Nov. 13 and a public lecture at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 13 in Vol Walker Hall. “She will move from exhibition display to exhibition display and discuss what each piece is all about, really open up what the wall captions provide and position the displays in an overall framework,” said Peter MacKeith, the Dean of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

This exhibit is based on examples in the United States and is more of a current state of affairs and will touch on the complete sequence, which this is the third, MacKeith said.

Students can expect to learn from Smith with her experience at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.

“She’s had this position at the Cooper Hewitt with the curator of socially responsible design for a decade or more, so that perspective is valuable to learn about,” MacKeith said.
Attendees will have the opportunity to learn what is socially responsible design, how that differs from design generally and can there be such a thing as socially irresponsible design, MacKeith said.

“By the People challenges the country’s persistent social and economic inequality,” according to the Cooper Hewitt website.

Design is not for the 10 percent that can afford it, but for the 90 percent who can’t afford it or don’t know how design can assist them, MacKeith said.

This exhibit is the first to take place nationally outside Cooper Hewitt, according to a Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design document.

“We are the only school in professional design programs in the state and we therefore have a responsibility to bring design to the state,” MacKeith said.

By the People was set up by seven students, a representative from Cooper Hewitt and Fabrication Specialist Justin Tucker.

“The installation of the exhibit was a tedious process since the displays came from Cooper Hewitt, so all the items were very well packed as well as delicate,” Hull said.

“Setting up this exhibit posed a new challenge from previous ones. Since the exhibit was from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, there were strict guidelines on how things could be displayed, and how we could handle them,” junior Phillip Kling said.

A representative was supervising the delivery of the parts to make sure that everything arrived in good condition and was handled correctly, he said.

There are many pieces to the exhibit and they are to be handled with care. It took a few days to unpack things and coordinate with the supervisor on what needed to go where and whether it was in good condition, James Hull said. Hull thinks displaying the work was the easiest part because all the pieces came together, he said.

“Curator of Socially Responsible Design Cynthia E. Smith conducted over two years of field research—traveling to shrinking post-industrial cities, sprawling metro regions, struggling rural towns, areas impacted by natural and man-made disasters, and places of persistent poverty—in search of design for more inclusive and sustainable communities,” according to the Cooper Hewitt website.

Students appreciate the work of Smith in the By the People: Designing a Better America exhibit.

“By the People is about giving the community a voice in the design process, so that the people who are more familiar with their city can impact the design and make it better in the end,” Hull said.

Day of the Dead Celebration Honors Deceased, Oppressed

By Andrea Johnson
The Razorback Reporter

Nearly 400 people marched in Springdale early this month to commemorate immigrants who died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

So far this year an estimated 318 have died, according to Missing Migrants Project data. Between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2016, 573 people died at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report.

The march was organized to coincide with Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, Latin American and Spanish holiday that honors deceased ancestors by building altars decorated with photos, flowers, food and drink in preparation of their return home on All Soul’s Day, Nov. 2.

Leaders of the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center organized their first Día de los Muertos march, beginning at Thompson Street and ending with a procession at the Shiloh Square in downtown Springdale. The Justice Center is a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve working conditions for low-wage and immigrant workers, according to the Justice Center website.

Traditionally, Día de los Muertos celebrations include vibrant colors, music, food and dancing to honor the dead. This event featured similar elements of tradition but focused on honoring dead immigrants and “making people think about how immigrants live in this country,” said Magaly Licolli, executive director of the Justice Center and 2013 UA graduate.

“Day of the Dead has become very popular in the U.S.,” Licolli said. “We see more people being aware of this celebration, so we wanted to take this celebration to also raise awareness about the current situation of immigrants.”

Justice Center officials have assisted in cases of workplace abuse, offered training sessions to inform low-wage workers of their rights and advocated for poultry workers to have safety equipment, according to the website. Licolli wanted the event to serve as an invitation “to stand up for (workers’) rights and keep fighting,” she said.

Some who participated in the march wore decorative skull face paint, also known as “calavera,” and some dressed as “chinelos,” or costumed dancers who celebrate Mexican culture. A team of artists, including locals and Maria Villamil from Los Angeles, helped create giant puppets, sometimes referred to as “mojigangas,” for the march.

As they neared the square, participants chanted phrases in Spanish including, “Sí, se puedes” and “Estamos aquí y no nos vamos” – “Yes, you can” and “We are here and we are not leaving.” At the square, Licolli and other local community leaders spoke and the chinelos led the crowd in dancing.

A group of Latina women from across the state performed an original play based on the stories of local immigrant workers, said Simone Cottrell, outreach manager for The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre. The Justice Center collaborated with The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre in Fayetteville to create a performance that told the story of an immigrant worker who traveled from her native country, worked in a poultry plant in the U.S. and died on the job.

“You see the cycle of life go all the way through death, but life still goes on and the spirit still goes on,” Cottrell said.

The short play fell in line with the theme of honoring the dead, creating visibility for oppressed immigrant workers and preserving culture, said Cynthia Martinez, an event organizer and 2017 UA alumna.

“It’s important to preserve our culture and our traditions, and it’s important that we tell our stories and not have other people or corporations tell our stories or sell our culture,” Martinez said.

Junior Lucy Espino volunteered with the Justice Center to meet the service learning requirements of professor Juan José Bustamante’s course, Latina/os, Migration and the U.S. South. Espino enjoyed working with the artists and learned about local workers’ struggles, she said.

“I learned way more than I imagined,” Espino said. “You don’t really think about it. No one tells you about it.”

Licolli thinks the event played out successfully and anticipates a similar event next year, she said.

A version of this article appeared in The Arkansas Traveler.

Unemployed veterans finding jobs as more businesses pledge to hire

By Taylor Klusman

The Razorback Reporter

More than 18,400 of veterans who reside in Arkansas are living in poverty.

According to the Veterans Data Central website, the unemployment rate in 2016 ranged from 1.8 to 7.6 percent, ensuring that Arkansas’s 3.1 percent was relatively low when compared to other states.

“Among the 453,000 unemployed veterans in 2016, 60 percent were age 45 and over, 36 percent were age 25 to 44, and 4 percent were age 18 to 24,” according to information found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

As the numbers come to light, many businesses and companies have begun to offer various promotions and support groups to help find jobs for these veterans.

Blair Cromwell, senior manager-opportunity for Walmart corporate communications, explained the ‘Veterans Welcome Home Commitment’ that Walmart introduced in 2013 and guaranteed the continuation of until 2020.

“Since Memorial Day 2013, we have hired 179,489 veterans and have promoted 24,379 to roles of greater responsibility,” Cromwell said.

Other large corporations have also taken up the initiative of hiring veterans with an intent to reduce the poverty and homelessness that accompanies many with their return to the country after fighting wars abroad.

Starbucks featured a new pledge on their website to hire 15,000 more veterans, as they have already employed more than 10,000 veterans and military spouses since 2013, according to their website.

“Today, Americans know fewer veterans than any other generation,” the large, beginning header on read. The article quoted veteran employees from various Starbucks locations describing their everyday jobs working with civilians.

“In the next 10 years, more than two-thirds of veterans will be over the age of 65,” according to the Veterans Data Central website.

Amazon joined the trend with their announcement in May 2016 to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2021—over two times the number of veterans they employ.

Similarly to Starbucks, Amazon’s employment page of their website highlights the Amazon Warriors, a group of employees that have joined in support of veterans as well as current military personnel.

Angela Seawood Williams, assistant vice chancellor for career services and executive director of the Career Development Center, described the program’s services as providing “career counseling, resume reviews, mock interviews, and job search strategies.”

“Our career advisors have received special training regarding how to assist veterans with converting their military resumes to civilian resumes,” Williams said, “and they are aware of specific veterans’ job search resources.”

The CDC also has a VetSuccess Career counselor on campus specifically to help veteran students who are searching for a job.

Student Veterans, another organization on campus, was put in place to make veterans attending the university feel not as lonely, President of Student Veterans Derek Calhoun said, a veteran himself.

“Experience is very heavy in this job,” Calhoun said. “The culture in the military is very different, and the last president lacked communication with the members.”

Hiring veterans in positions like Calhoun’s can be beneficial to businesses that deal with veteran customers regularly, as sometimes it is easier to relate to someone who has had the same experience as you, Calhoun said.

Identifying veterans on campus and approaching them about joining Student Veterans is another part of Calhoun’s job description, one that would be even more difficult for a civilian president.

“It’s like playing ‘Where’s Waldo,’ but there’s so many Waldos I can’t possibly find them all,” Calhoun said.

More than 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life each year, each of whom have a better opportunity of being hired because of these recent pledges, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.