OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego student veterans are at the forefront of a special collaborative project that will share their stories in an exhibition for the campus and community.
Penfield Library will host “Voices of Oswego Veterans” from March 1 to April 23 as part of the yearlong School of Communication, Media and the Arts project “Many Voices, One Oswego,” which promotes inclusion of many groups, including veterans, on the college campus.
A free public reception for the cross-disciplinary, multiple-media exhibition will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. March 1, at Penfield Library.
About 160 Oswego students have a direct military connection, and about 60 students are serving. Almost one-third of them are women.
Jessica Dorans, a student veteran who was in the Army for six years as a mechanic and two years in an office job, is among nine current or former military featured in podcast interviews, photos and the written word. The Carthage resident and mother said she met great people during the making of the project.
“There was a meet-and-greet to get to know one another,” said Dorans, who is enrolled in the college’s five-year accounting/MBA program. “It was a good experience. I thought it was a unique perspective the way they did it.”
Dorans said the “Voices of Oswego Veterans” exhibition would show people that veterans are like everyone else, just with different skillsets and life experiences. People should not avoid veterans based on appearances and stereotypes, she said.
Students in “English 102: Writers and Literacies” classes and several different art classes, including intermediate photography and web media, worked on the project, utilizing skills developed in their coursework, said art faculty member Rebecca Mushtare, who specializes in web design and interactive media.
“Voices of Oswego Veterans” will display photo portraits of student veterans, a publication about the students, the project website — voicesofoswegoveterans.com — and books from last fall’s “Veterans Book Project” exhibition, Mushtare said. All components of the project will be on display in Penfield Library.
The project website shows photos evoking the personalities of the featured veterans, from one smiling while fishing by still waters to another in a dark room with part of his mysterious figure highlighted.
“Michael Flanagan, the (college’s) gallery director, was really interested in getting students to sit and engage with the materials,” Mushtare said. “The best way to do this was to connect the experience with an academic activity.”
The faculty involved in “Voices of Oswego Veterans” saw the value of having students use their creative voices to share stories of the veteran community, Mushtare said.
“There is a tendency — often unintentionally — to treat veterans as ‘others’ because their experiences seem so different from those not involved with the military,” she said. “What comes across in all of the work created is how complex all of our identities are and that we can find aspects of our identities that we have in common with one another.”
Benjamin Parker, the college’s veteran and military services coordinator, was one of the founders of the project in response to the fall semester “Veterans Book Project” exhibition, a national collection of books co-written by people who have been affected by war. That project facilitated discussions to create a local effort that centered on veterans and was designed to fit into individual courses, he said.
“People who have limited interactions with veterans have their views skewed by sensationalist news stories in the media and movies in Hollywood,” Parker said. With this exhibition, students can see that veterans have many positive accomplishments, such as making the Deans’ and President’s lists. A recent SUNY Oswego graduate is completing his master’s degree at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, he said.
SUNY Oswego was named to “Military Times Best: Colleges” for 2018 and to its predecessor “Best for Vets” list four consecutive years before that; as a “Military Friendly School” by Military Advanced Education for the past five years; and as a “Military Friendly School” by G. I. Jobs for the past four years.
The college provides support and resources for veterans through events such as “Military Appreciation Week” during the week of Veterans Day, casual gatherings year-round and the Battle Buddy Center in the Veterans Lounge, which serves as a safe haven for veterans to connect with peers, opportunities with employers, veteran alumni groups and veterans’ organization services.
Dorans said these efforts and resources make her feel more comfortable on campus, especially since she is older than many in her classes. “I think for those that have no idea about the military, it would be a great learning experience” to visit the exhibition, she said.
This and other “Many Voices, One Oswego” projects are made possible in part from an Explorations in Diversity and Academic Excellence Grant from the SUNY Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Parking on campus requires a permit; those without a current campus parking sticker should visit oswego.edu/parking for information on obtaining a daily use permit.
For more information about this and other SUNY Oswego art exhibitions, visit oswego.edu/arts or contact Flanagan at [email protected] or 315-312-2112.