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Combat-to-college program marches forward

The Warrior Scholar Project—an academic boot camp for college-bound veterans—is on the march.

Launched last year by two Yalies, Jesse Reising ’11 and Chris Howell ’13, the project this year has doubled the length of its session to two weeks in June; nearly tripled the number of students to 24, and added “a host of assistants and volunteers,” says Howell, the executive director. “This allows the program’s implementation to be much more thorough.”

And that’s not all: plans are in the works to expand the program next year to Harvard and the University of Michigan.

Howell, an Australian Special Forces veteran, and Reising, a former Yale football player and WSP president, cofounded the Warrior Scholar Project to address the unique challenges faced by veterans attempting to enroll in higher education after service. Veterans often report feeling socially isolated and without proper studying techniques after matriculation.

“Last year’s pilot program was very successful,” Reising says, “Now we are working toward our goal of offering the program to as many veterans as possible. ”

Visitors from Harvard and Michigan were on the Yale campus the week of June 10 to see the project in action, in hopes of starting chapters at their respective colleges.

Additionally, former Yale football player Collin Bibb ’13 and current captain Beau Palin ’14, both assistant directors, are writing a founders’ guide with instructions for installing WSP at other institutions. “We’re excited,” says Palin, “but it’s essential that the quality of the course does not decrease as we expand. Writing a detailed guide is one way to make sure of that.”

Included in the guide is the students’ daily schedule: a 16-hour intensive academic regimen where reading and writing classes, workshops, and discussions are the core components. The curriculum’s texts include selections from Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War. Some of the courses are taught internally by WSP, but many distinguished Yale professors—such as Donald Kagan and John Gaddis—have volunteered to teach critical thinking, analytical, reading and writing skills.

The larger staff also allows a more comprehensive approach to the transition between the military and college. Many WSP veterans have not been in a formal academic setting since high school, and almost all will be at least five years older than their classmates. To combat the potentially isolating affects of being an undergraduate veteran, the program now includes workshops to improve social and relationship-building skills. 

Reising expects next year to be even better: “We’ve identified two outstanding individuals, including a former Green Beret, to direct the pilot programs at Harvard and Michigan next year.” Once those efforts are established, Reising and Howell will work closely with Student Veterans of America to license the program to three to five additional universities in the next calendar year.

Filed under Warrior Scholar Project, veterans, Jesse Reising, Chris Howell
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