Lorna and Alex Zukas — both professors at National University in the Department of Social Sciences, and members of the El Cerrito Community Council — received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to offer Discussion Leader Training and Reading Discussion Groups centered on veterans and civilians’ experiences of war.
The project, “A Soldier’s Place: Veterans and Civilians Speaking about War,” hosted at National University (NU) brings together history, sociology and psychology faculty from NU and San Diego State University (SDSU) with veterans and civilians who are interested in the study of war and its impacts on people and societies from ancient Greece to the present.
According to project co-director, Dr. Alex Zukas, studying war through the humanities accomplishes a number of goals.
“First, it allows us to explore the effects of war on individuals and societies with attention to the project’s key themes of loyalty, heroism, trauma, and homecoming, and, second, it creates a space for veterans and others to have meaningful and transformative conversations through facilitated discussions that focus on those themes,” he said.
Project faculty member, Dr. William Weeks of SDSU and National University, said, “With a repertoire of epic poetry, narrative non-fiction, military biography, film, and memoir, the humanities provide important intellectual and cultural frames that give participants a variety of perspectives to understand societies at war and the expectation of those on the battlefield and the homefront.”
Opportunities for veterans
The project leaders are recruiting veteran alumni leaders and veteran students with a demonstrated capacity to be leaders, who want to help others think more deeply about the issues raised by war and military service, to become Discussion Leaders. The NEH Discussion Leader Preparatory Workshop will help participants enhance existing skills in using historical and literary resources and perspectives to understand and process traumatic and life-changing experiences.
Applicants to the NEH Discussion Leader Training Program must be veterans who hold or are completing a Master’s Degree in the Humanities or an allied field (e.g., Literature, Creative Writing, History, Philosophy, Law, Politics, Religion, Art, Anthropology, Sociology, Human Behavior, Psychology, Sociology, Education, Leadership, etc.). An exceptional Bachelor’s Degree holder may be considered. Project coordinators are hoping to support NU and SDSU veteran alumni but all qualified veterans may apply.
The training workshop will meet from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. over two weekends in November two weeks apart (Nov. 7-8 and 21-22). Due to COVID-19, the training workshop will take place virtually.
NEH Discussion Leaders receive all program materials free of charge and are paid a stipend. For information and application, visit bit.ly/335yHe8 The first deadline for applications for this positon is Sept. 30.
Opportunities for veterans and community members
The project, “A Soldier’s Place: Veterans and Civilians Speaking about War” is a public humanities program offered at National University. The program is open to all veterans and civilians who are interested in the study of war and what it means to be a warrior in both ancient and modern times. This program creates a space where those affected by war and its aftermath can explore important humanities sources on war and have meaningful conversations through facilitated discussions of those sources.
The program supports the idea that reading and discussing humanities texts about war in a supportive intellectual environment can help U.S. military veterans and civilians reflect more deeply about the issues raised by war and military service and compare their experiences and reactions to the experiences and reactions of people from other times and places.
Project readings include epic poetry, narrative non-fiction, military biography, and memoir. They highlight multiple branches of service and uncover men and women’s experiences on the battlefield and the homefront. Readings focus on three wars: the Trojan War, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq War (Operation Iraqi Freedom) to highlight the persistence of powerful themes of trauma, loyalty, heroism, and homecoming and the effects of their enactments on individuals and societies in the accounts of war over the last three thousand years. The battle arenas are completely different yet the impacts of the wars are significantly similar.
The Veterans and Civilians Speaking about War program welcomes participation from all veterans, active duty members, civilians, and others associated with the military regardless of service branch, service years, deployment history, disability status, age, race, or gender.
Participation in the program
Program participants have the opportunity to join a small group of people, veterans and civilians, share stories, expand networks, support one another, and use the humanities to open up dialogues on the experience of war. All materials are provided at no cost to participants.
Discussion groups will meet twice monthly for five months (January to May 2021) and will meet either on a weekday evening or on a Saturday during the day. National University currently plans to resume campus operations in January 2021. On campus and online discussion groups will be offered. Applications are available online at,nu.libguides.com/nehvetproject. Class size is limited and registration is first-come, first-served. Applications are due Nov. 1, 2020, or until space fills.
For more information, contact Dr. Lorna Zukas at 619-538-9689 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter at @SoldierPlace.