On Friday, Jan. 17, the College announced on their Facebook page the acceptance of 10 veterans to Vassar’s Class of 2018 through the Posse program. This will be Vassar’s second Posse class, with the Class of 2017 featuring 11 veterans through the same program.
On its website, the Posse Foundation website explains its purpose and goals. The website reads, “The Veterans Posse initiative identifies and supports veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are interested in pursuing bachelor’s degrees at top colleges and universities across the country.”
It continues, “By creating cohorts of veterans, preparing them for the college experience and supporting them through graduation, the Veterans Posse initiative will greatly increase veterans’ success in college and ultimately in the workforce. The Posse Foundation announced its Veterans initiative in 2012 and began the program in partnership with Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.”
According to the Vassar Facebook page, the incoming freshmen are Patrick DeYoung, Sidney Johnson, Keith Kohlmann, Nicole Leadenham, Vincent Lenart, Huy Nguyen, Tanya Painter, Antoine Robinson, Jonathan Snyder, and Teresa Stout. These veterans will bring experience from the United States Army, Army National Guard, Marines and Navy to the Vassar campus.
Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Vassar David M. Borus is also the Posse liaison for the College. He explained the selection process for the small Posse group. In an emailed statement he wrote, “Potential Veterans Posse members are identified by the Posse Foundation through a multi-step process which involves several meetings and interviews with the candidates.”
According to Borus, starting with a large pool of nominees, they winnow it down to 20 to 25 finalists who are invited to come to New York to meet with a team of Vassar representatives.
Borus continued, “After that extended group meeting, the members of the next Posse are chosen by the Vassar representatives and the Posse staff. Of course, the finalists must all fill out the Common Application and supply test scores and transcripts like any other applicants, and this information is part of the decision making process.”
Borus reiterated the group-based nature of the Posse Veterans program, in which a cohort of non-traditional new students enter a new environment together in order to provide support and like-minded peers. He explained, “The goal of this process is to produce a group of ten students who will enter Vassar together…I am certain that there will be a great deal of contact, both formal and informal, between the members of the first Veterans Posse and the newest Posse students during the coming year.”
He continued, “Part of the model of the Posse Foundation is to build such relationships so that continuing students can support and assist new students, and I am sure that Vassar will work to provide such opportunities for interaction between the groups during the year.”
Borus reflected on the past semester he spent working with the Posse members of the Class of 2017. He said, “By working with the members of the first Veterans Posse, I think those of us at Vassar have learned a lot this year that will make the transition to college life somewhat smoother for subsequent groups. For example, we have gained a great deal of useful knowledge about working with the Veterans Administration and other governmental agencies that impact the lives of all students that are vets.”
He further stated, “We also have a clearer idea of what sorts of information the Posse members will need in advance of their arrival on campus.”
Anuradha Datta ’17 from Calcutta, India is a member of Vassar Posse I. Her military experience includes being a Motor Transportation Specialist in the US Army, leading convoy escort teams during OEF/OIF. She reflected on her experience at Vassar last semester in an emailed statement, writing, “Vassar has been amazing…I arrived on campus the first day feeling so uncomfortable and out of place, but having my Posse with me made the transition much easier.”
She continued to describe the difficulties she first encountered, “The hardest part was the academia. It is very challenging and I have learned a lot in just the first semester. The inclusive culture of Vassar is a shock at first, everyone is so nice and accommodating; it is very different from the military or the civilian workforce. I look forward to getting to know more students and professors, and working on projects that make a difference in this community. Events like Theater of War have been great; talking about our past experiences and creating a dialogue has helped us feel at home.”
She also affirmed the value of the Posse program in terms of becoming friends with other members of her group: “We [in Vassar Posse 1] have grown to be a close, tight knit group; going through this transition has brought us all closer together. We are very excited to have the next class join us, it’s great to be able to walk around campus and see familiar faces and know that I am not alone in this journey.”
Datta and her peers also spoke to the challenges and opportunities connected to being part of the first Posse group at Vassar. Datta said, “Being the first to do anything is always a challenge; we did not know what to expect when we arrived at Vassar. I had a lot of reservations.” She said she wondered, “Am I doing the right thing? Is this really where I belong? How do the other students feel about veterans coming to campus? Will we be accepted, especially with such a huge age difference, by our peers?”
Datta continued, “We did not know what to expect, nor did we have all the answers when we decided to travel down this path. But so far, it has been a very rewarding experience. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to contemplate women’s rights, to discuss international politics, to dance to our hearts’ content in the studio. As veterans, we have seen and experienced a lot of things that our fellow students have yet to experience, but for those few fleeting moments when we are sitting in a classroom together, we are just students going through the freshman experience.”
Vassar administration has high hopes for the new groups of Posse students coming to Vassar in fall of 2014. Many hope for the continued success of the program and look to the first Posse group as highly promising.
Datta said she would advise the next class to “Jump in with both feet! Take that ballet class you always wanted to, ask those burning questions to your professors, join that club, go to the late night meetings, scream with your peers before finals, and enjoy every moment of it.”