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Veterans Center

CWU faculty and staff communicate with student vets with “Kognito”

Even in an era when digital communication seems to be preeminent, face-to-face conversations are still vital. CWU wants to ensure it is communicating as effectively as possible, especially with veterans who are transitioning to civilian life.

“Some veterans are uncomfortable bringing up their military service because of concerns they may be singled out and called on to comment on military issues or topics, because of their experiences, during a lecture,” said Ruben Cardenas, CWU Veterans Center director. “That can be uncomfortable because some student-veterans just want to be considered ‘students.’”

That is among the reasons why the Veterans Center is funding a new online training program, Kognito, to support appropriate interaction with the roughly 600 veterans and members of their families now taking classes in Ellensburg, and at CWU University Centers and learning sites across Washington.

For the next two years, Kognito will be available to faculty and staff through the university’s Central Learning Academy (CLA).

Kognito combines conversation with game technology, allowing users to role-play and refine dialogue with “virtual” humans. The training allows participants to try different approaches, get personalized feedback, and learn skills—and gain confidence—to lead similar real-life exchanges.

“There are people at the university who have limited experience with veterans—where they’re coming from and their experiences,” Cardenas continued. “But, with the growth of the student-veteran population here and at colleges and universities nationwide, this is needed to address awareness in terms of working with and providing additional ways to engage and assist student veterans.”

The 30-minute, voluntary training is referred to as an evidence-based health simulation. Kognito has been reviewed and certified by the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

CWU students pushed for inclusion of the program, which was developed in collaboration with Student Veterans of America, into training opportunities here.

“It’s customizable to our campus and the resources we have—and that the community makes available,” Cardenas noted. “That’s part of the training—to help our student-veterans make needed connections.”

Company data indicates more than a million people nationwide have already engaged in a Kognito simulation, which can be tailored to specific client needs. CWU is one of just two public higher education institutions in the state providing the training. 

“It’s designed to further enhance our military-cultural competency,” said Cardenas, pointing out that CWU is already designated a “Veteran Supportive Campus” by the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (WSDVA).

The WSDVA endorsement is based on the university’s demonstrated commitment to serving the needs of military personnel and their families, including as one of just four Washington higher education institutions allowed to provide instruction directly at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the largest military installation on the West Coast, near Tacoma.

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