For incoming freshmen, the transition from high school to college can be a hard adjustment period, but debatably not the hardest. Consider what it might be like to put college on hold, serve in the military and then finally return to school at a completely different time in your life.
In light of the initiation of its Posse Program in 2013, Vassar intends to enroll one group of veterans per class, which, in two years, would represent veteran students as 1.5 percent of the College’s student body. As part of this long term initiative, from Jan. 11 to Jan. 18, Vassar hosted the Warrior Scholar Program (WSP) on campus to the attendance of more than 150 veterans.
Staying at Vassar’s Alumnae/i House, the veterans spent the week attending seminars with Vassar professors, who volunteered to help ease the difficult transition back to school.
Posse participant, military veteran and currently enrolled Vassar student Dave Carrell said, “Being 10 to 15 years older than most studients is tough. When I first came to Vassar I thought that i would just go to class, go to the library and go home. If I had done that Vassar would be incredibly difficult. I had to find time to get involved in the Vassar community”
The Warrior Scholar program was first founded in 2011 by Yale graduates who wanted to develop a program that would emphasize the necessary skill set and confidence military veterans need to successfully return to four years of higher education.
Carrell sees this program as a helpful one given his personal experience. He stated, “Transitioning from the military and entering college is a complex and difficult time in veterans’ lives. It took a while to come to the realization that an undergrad degree is not vocational training”
The WSP boot camp is based off of a syllabus that contains extensive texts and material guides ranging from works by Frederick Douglass, de Tocqueville and Dahl to Herodotus and Thucydides. Having completed the program, Carell reflected, “The Warrior Scholar Project allowed me to relearn study habits, anaylticial reading and college level writing. While I still struggle balanzing my time, the skills taught at the WSP have allowed me to better understand the material.”
The bootcamp professors, who represent a variety of academic fields, include Professor of History Rebecca Edwards, Professor of Greek and Roman Studies Bert Bertrand Lott, Director of the Writing Center Matthew Schultz, Professor and Associate Chair of English Wendy Graham and Professor and Chair of Philosophy Giovanna Borradori to teach at the January boot camp. From a teaching perspective, Lott considers the WSP to be a well thought out curriculum, stating, “I think that preparing for college classes and becoming comfortable with the expectations that are particular to a college setting is something that happens for all students over several semesters, but having the opportunity to practice some of the core skills before jumping in full time seems like a great opportunity.”
The first boot camp was held at Yale in 2012 with nine participants. Since its debut, the Warrior Scholar Program has held events at prestigious institutes across the country, Vassar being the most recent destination.
Director of WSP Operations Gina M. Bartolomeo commented, “I feel this is a necessary program to allow enlisted veterans to see their full potential in academia. Running programs at colleges and universities like Yale, Harvard, University of Michigan and Vassar not only teach the Warrior-Scholars to think critically and write concisely, but also expose them to some of the U.S.’s top universities, where many may not have even considered applying.”
Bartolomeo added, “It is very rewarding to see veterans complete the program and then have a solid of idea of what school they want to apply to and what they want to study. It’s amazing to see how much confidence they gain in one week’s time.”
Carell affirmed Bartolomeo’s comment, stating, “I did not think I would be able to leave my past behind and focus on college. But I was wrong.I believe that the WSP was instrumental in my transition.”
Prior to the event, Professor of History Rebecca Edwards said, “It will be great not only to work with veterans, and get to know this group a little bit, but it will also be helpful for me to think more deeply about the skills students need when they are making the transition to a liberal arts college, especially if they aren’t coming directly from high school.These are valuable things for me to learn more about, to apply in my Freshman Writing Seminar and other courses.”
Professor Lott went into the bootcamp with a similar perspective, adding, “The goals of the program seem similar to Vassar’s Freshman Writing Seminar and I approached teaching my session a way very similar to how I teach Freshman Writing Seminars (FWS). Just like the FWS are content-driven—that is, they use particular subject matter to also teach general research, analysis, and writing skills—the session of WSP I taught focused on a topic in my own area of expertise and practiced some general college skills.”
After focusing his own lectures around Greek and Roman cultures, Professor Lott similarly concluded, “I hope the students also took away an introduction to the range of questions, approaches and activities that happen across the various areas of the Vassar curriculum.”
After conducting a week of English lectures, Graham said she took away something valuable from the program. In an emailed statement she wrote, “I’m sure I learned as much from the students as they learned from me. I was very impressed and even moved by the students’ seriousness of purpose. It reminded me of why I chose this profession.”