One of the things I love about IU’s student veteran population is the incredible range of experiences and the global perspectives they bring to campus.
Veterans are a fascinating group — no two of us are alike, even if we served in the same locations at the same time. That can make it challenging to develop the wide range of support programs to assist with veterans’ academic success.
My staff and I work very hard to continue the tradition in our day-to-day interactions with our military and veteran students. We also have a talented team of student veteran leaders working hard to build a peer support network for veterans.
The new Peer Advising for Veteran Education program launched this semester (spring 2015), led by two awesome students along with a team of volunteer veteran peer advisors. Our local chapter of Student Veterans of America has grown immensely over the last couple of years thanks to the hard work of some dedicated students. When one of their members recently had a significant and unexpected family crisis, the group immediately organized to raise funds to help their friend and colleague.
Coffee is a common bond. We have students who stop by our lounge routinely for a cup of coffee and camaraderie with fellow veterans. Some students come by for some quiet studying in between classes.
In fact, the first student in the door this morning came by for a cup of coffee and to commiserate about how hard it is to get back to work after spring break. I love the banter with our students – it’s a personal connection in a place they feel at home. Sometimes campus can feel foreign to veterans, and the veteran student lounge is a place they can be at home with others who can vent about the odd and unfamiliar territory, language and traditions of college life.
Knowing it’s been several years since most student veterans graduated from high school, we created a special math tutoring program in our lounge to help polish their sometimes-rusty math skills. I have heard from more than one student that this tutoring program is what got them successfully through their required math course. We also have special relationships with the various career services offices across the campus, as well as with a wide range of potential employers specifically seeking to hire veterans.
I particularly love to see our veterans at the end of their academic careers, when they stop by to pick up an armed forces honor cord to wear at commencement. Their excitement and pride is infectious, and they leave us ready for new adventures in the civilian world. It is so rewarding to be part of their IU journey.