Statistics indicate a widening gap between American civilians and service members. This gap exacerbates veteran reintegrating into civilian life and misunderstandings between veterans and civilians, that can have meaningful consequences both for the health quality of life of veterans and for society, peace, and democracy. Research in veteran reintegration and well-being suggests that feeling seen, understood, and incorporated into a community are important for successful reintegration of veterans. Successful reintegration benefits the health and quality of life of veterans and their families and it contributes to the health and functioning of their societies. It is also important for citizens in a democracy to understand the costs of wars and other military activities undertaken in their name so that they can make more informed decisions at the polls and in their civic engagement. Additionally research from political science, sociology, and history indicates that a disconnect between the military and society can have significant consequences for civilian control of the military, a hallmark of democracy.  

An estimated 10,000 veterans return to the Kansas City metropolitan area each year upon discharge, making the city a prime location for attempting to bridge this civil-military divide. The Bridging the Gap project at the University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) serves three primary goals: (1) to better serve the veteran community on campus at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, (2) to contribute to university-wide efforts to support the veteran population of Kansas City, and (3) to encourage engagement, discussion, and dialogue among contemporary veterans and their civilian counterparts. We aim to make this program a self-sustaining component of the general education curriculum at UMKC, while securing local and national partners to support guest lectures and programmed focused on bridging the divide between veterans and civilians.

The program consists of two public-facing components. The first is a general education course, first offered in the Spring of 2023 at UMKC which explores civil-military relations; what happens when veterans become civilians again; and the political, social, and public health implications of a widening civil-military divide. Project PIs selected student veterans to serve as Supplemental Instructors (SIs), trained in partnership with the Leading by Learning Program developed by International Center for Supplemental Instruction (ICSI) housed at UMKC. Project PIs and the Supplemental Instructors led groups of civilian and some military-connected students through a holistic examination of military-civilian relationships across time and culture, with emphasis on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Argentina’s Dirty War. Students and SIs explored the diversity of military experiences; the ways veterans and others have translated experiences of war into novels, memoirs, songs, and films; the challenges of accurately representing these experiences; and the crucial ways that narrative can connect civilian and military communities.

The second public-facing component of the project is a series of lectures and events designed to continue and broaden the conversations begun in the general education course.

The project is supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities Dialogues on the Experience of War.

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What We Do


Leveraging the arts and humanities to promote dialogue and understanding between civilians and military veterans, starting at University of Missouri - Kansas City.


Who We Are

Project PIs are Rebecca Best (Political Science), Viviana Grieco (History), and Whitney Terrell (English). Eric Gormly, Director of UMKC's Student Veteran Support Services, is a key project partner in planning events and reaching the student veteran population at UMKC. Carlos ParraCervantes, Michelle Perez, Philip Potter, Eric Gormly, and Morgan Christensen all served as Supplemental Instructors for the Bridging the Gap course in the spring of 2023. Personnel from the Missouri Institute for Defense and Energy provide critical support in grants management.

Meet Our Team


Our Events and Activities

Learn more about our activities or attend one of our upcoming public events.

The Course

GECDV 201: Bridging the Gap: What happens when soldiers become civilians again? This course, piloted in Spring 2023 through support from the National Endowment for Humanities and in cooperation with the Leading by Learning Program developed by International Center for Supplemental Instruction (ICSI), reached seventy students, both civilian and military-connected in its first run. In addition to lectures from the course faculty and discussions led by student veteran Supplemental Instructors, students also benefited from guest lectures given by military veterans including the author Matt Gallagher and the founder of Veterans for American Ideals and nonresident senior fellow with the Forward Defense practice at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Scott Cooper. View the course syllabus here.

Public Lecture: Lieutenant Colonel Stephanie Cooper

On Sept 28, 2023, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Stephanie Cooper, a U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer, will deliver a public lecture and take questions from 11:30-12:45 in Bloch Executive Hall 213. The event is free and open to the public.

LTC Cooper is a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer stationed at Fort Leavenworth. In 2006, Cooper deployed to Ramadi, Iraq where she led one of the Army's first Lioness teams. The U.S. Marine Corps developed the practice of using Lioness teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, first to allow U.S. troops to search local women at checkpoints, and later for intelligence gathering on other types of operations. When Cooper, the brigade JAG officer for 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, under the command of the now Retired General Sean MacFarland, arrived in Ramadi and learned of the Marine teams, she asked MacFarland to be allowed to assemble an Army Lioness team. From June 2006 to February 2007, members of Cooper's Lioness team went on 22 missions in Ramadi. Their participation in these missions was entirely voluntary (though frequently requested by commanders) and carried out in addition to the duties associated with their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).



The Bridging the Gap: What Happens when Soldiers become Civilians Again? project at the University of Missouri - Kansas City is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Dialogues on the Experience of War program. Award # AV-286734-22

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School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Volker Campus
711 E. 51st St.
Kansas City, MO 64110