Helping veterans transition to civilian careers

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The Veterans Imagination Project at ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination uses the methods of future thinking and speculative fiction (also trendspotting, mentors and storytelling) to help military veterans transitioning to civilian careers.

This was a pilot program last spring with ASU student veterans, and they received a grant to expand this work into the community. This fall they recruited more veterans to take part in the project.

Bob Beard, program manager for the Center for Science and the Imagination explains more about the methods used. We also talk to an ASU student veteran, Erik Villegas. He has a unique perspective on how a program like this can be beneficial.

Providing creative ideas for people to think differently

“Future thinking, art, science fiction storytelling, all of that in a way to model new mental models for folks coming out of the military. Getting out of the military a lot of people consider it just a job change or relocation, but it’s really a fundamental personal transformation, and it affects people’s psychology,” said Beard.

The program is to help give these people the tools they need to move through their future after the military.

“Future thinking is a skill that’s increasingly used by Fortune 500 companies, by large organizations, by government agencies, even places in the military. It’s about developing these new skills and tools to model where the future might be, and rehearse for the future you want,” explained Beard.

Veteran thoughts on the project

“I was a part of the pilot program,” said Villegas. “I started at ASU in 2020 and I met Bob through a work colleague, and found out that he was teaching a course.”

“Bob is allowing these student veterans, and veterans just in the community, to explore any industry that they’d like. He’s doing this by connecting them with professionals all around the valley. He’s connecting them with people that can help guide them in the field they are pursuing,” explained Villegas.

“You’re on your way when you get out of the military. Bob is helping veterans really pursue whatever it is they are interested in,” said Villegas. “This is an opportunity for them to pursue something that maybe they were hesitant to pursue in the past.”

Bob Beard, Program manager for Center for Science and the Imagination; Erik Villegas, Student

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