CUSSW requires students to complete a capstone project as part of their MSW curriculum. This year’s capstone project was based on Helen Benedicts, The Lonely Soldier (2009).

Before I delve more into the project itself, let me first say a few words on the novel: the general gist and my own reaction. The Lonely Soldier focuses on the experiences of women in the military (including pre and post service life experiences). While the book is insightful, it clearly has an agenda. What I mean is, it solely focuses on the negative aspects of the military and pushes for women’s rights in that context. Thus, the book addresses just one side of this important but complex issue. The reality, however, is there are two sides. There are two very important sides.

For one, and as the book states, I absolutely think it’s important to validate the experiences of those women who are isolated, discriminated against, and even sexually assaulted by comrades during their valiant service. They deserve to be cared for and treated with respect and honor. And in truth, there really are some overarching policies and traditions that I find grotesquely surprising, in that they do hinder women’s physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing in the military.

On the other hand, the book seems to portray most military men as devious and evil. I personally think it is important not to generalize every man serving in the military as such.

Now. If having read my thoughts you are enraged and completely disagree…it’s ok. In expressing my opinions on the topic throughout this project I have, at times, been deemed heartless and/or ultra conservative (funny how some find "conservative" to be an insult). Perhaps they’re right. I just feel that I need the whole picture before I can label all military men as horrific. Again, let me reiterate, that doesn’t mean I don’t think the negative experiences of any woman should ever be swept under the rug. 

Ok, now that my thoughts are out, let me explain the capstone project. Again, the capstone is based on The Lonely Soldier. In reading the novel’s narratives, students were required to critically analyze macro, mezzo, and micro issues affecting women in the military. In doing so, groups of 12 members were to then compile a paper, executive summary, and poster discussing the three systems levels.

In the macro section, we were to focus on structural issues and policies that shape the experiences of women in the military. At the mezzo level, we were to hone in on agency protocols and organizational supports. Additionally, in discussing factors at the mezzo level, we were to address community attitudes and supports for returning female veterans. At the micro level, we were to design a comprehensive treatment plan for returning female veterans guided by applicable evidence based theories and practices.

With 12 people and 12 million different opinions, we early on divided into three system sub-groups: macro, mezzo, and micro. That was a brilliant tactic, as it made the group process extremely fluid. I worked on the micro section. In the end I was one of two final editors who had the “pleasure” of combining all the sections into a cohesive, flowing document. (Okay I honestly can’t complain, I’m a little obsessive and rather enjoy editing. You know you’re ready to graduate when you practically have the APA guidelines memorized.) Then the poster. Somehow we were to represent our paper on a poster…! Well we did it.

Right. So after a lengthy poster presentation session this morning with some serious Q & A and thorough review of our paper, our group won an Honorable Mention! You know, it feels good to have someone recognize the hard work we put in. But ultimately what I love is that now I’m really done! Like done done. As in I have nothing left. I’m truly floored. Flabbergasted. And SO THRILLED!

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