TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama will continue its leadership role in improving military transitions through the Service Member to Civilian International Summit 2016, a three-day assembly of researchers, military officials and activists that begins Sept. 21 at the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham.
The summit’s aim is to present research, form agendas and expand the leadership role of higher education institutions to aid in military veterans and their families’ transitions from active duty to civilian life.
The Summit is supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Child and Human Development and also by generous support by sponsors.
General admission for the three-day summit (Sept. 21-23) is $150 and includes meals. Admission for military members, dependents and students is $50. Registration is open and can be completed at the summit’s web site, servicetocivilian.ua.edu.
A special pre-summit session on “Moral Injury and Faith-Based Approaches to Supporting Veterans and Families,” will be held Sept. 20 at the Hyatt Regency. Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey will deliver the opening address Sept. 21.
The first summit took place in April 2015 at UA and has helped Drs. David L. Albright, Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health, and Karl Hamner, assistant dean for research, both in UA’s School of Social Work, build international partnerships to expand the scope of the second summit.
The list of keynote speakers includes Lt. Cmdr. Stéphanie Bélanger, Royal Canadian Navy Reserve, interim co-scientific director for the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research; and Dr. David Pedlar, director of research at the National Headquarters of Veterans Affairs Canada.
“The issues are different in some ways, country to country, but the challenges you face with the people who go to war and how they integrate, not just in terms of the trauma, but really taking advantage of the skills and abilities they learn in service to their countries – organizational skills, leadership, technical skills – is an international effort,” Hamner said.
Keynote speakers also include David Wood, Pulitzer Prize winning senior military correspondent; retired Army Col. Carl Andrew Castro, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California; and Paula Stokes, attorney and Alabama relationship manager, Southeast District Veterans Experience Office, Department of Veterans Affairs.
Approximately 300 participants are expected to attend. Participants will attend keynote addresses and engage in concurrent sessions, seminars and research presentations where they’ll gain practical solutions that can be applied right away.
Albright and Hamner are already making headway in Alabama, where they are conducting the first formal veterans needs assessment study in the state in partnership with the Community Foundation of South Alabama.
The study includes surveys of veterans and family members about supportive services, healthcare, work and education opportunities in eight counties in South Alabama. Once they have completed the study for the Community Foundation, they plan to add additional counties with the goal of expanding it statewide.
“We’re fortunate to contribute to this discussion of supporting military veterans and their families, a discussion that’s relatively on the front end,” Albright said. “And, it’s one that national governments are investing in. Extending these partnerships and collaborations is a critical next step.”