Entering college can be a period of immense upheaval and readjustment for incoming freshmen, especially those coming from military service.
The Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) is a Combined Federal Campaign-affiliated initiative based out of Washington D.C. that aims to help student veterans prepare for undergraduate study and actualize their educational goals.
WSP holds one of its annual academic boot camps at the University of Oklahoma (OU) Saturday through July 23.
“Veterans, as they transition out, a lot of times, they’ll have difficulties readjusting to civilian society,” said Sidney Ellington, WSP executive director.
Ellington, who earned undergraduate and doctorate degrees from OU, served in the U.S. Navy for two decades and worked for Teach for America’s Military Veterans Outreach and Support Initiative, knows firsthand the value of a good education.
While there are a host of federally funded programs meant to help veterans adjust to various elements of civilian life, Ellington said many of those resources revolve around health care, employment and combating veteran homelessness.
According to Ellington, there is often a misconception that educational issues for veterans are fixed. He said the GI Bill does open many doors into higher education, but many student veterans are also first-generation college students.
Taxpayers annually contribute around $12 billion to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, but as much as 40 percent might eventually be used at for-profit colleges that don’t always benefit student veterans, Ellington said.
“When you’re a first-generation college student, that distinction is not so clear,” Ellington said of the choice between for-profit colleges and accredited institutions like OU.
In order to provide student veterans with the best knowledge about the entire undergraduate process, WSP offers intensive academic boot camps at universities across the country. In addition to OU, WSP’s 15 host campuses include Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and Yale and other highly ranked schools like Georgetown and the University of Chicago.
Ellington said the boot camps serve three primary goals: building a skill bridge from the enlisted service to accredited schools, increasing student veterans’ academic confidence and helping with tactical skills such as note-taking and studying.
The program’s Warrior-Scholars are effectively university students for the duration of their stays, Ellington said. They live in the dormitories and eat in the cafeteria, spending their time studying and learning firsthand how to navigate collegiate life.
A typical WSP day begins at 0700 hours with breakfast and includes seminar-style courses with professors, a lunch break and various writing labs and tutoring sessions.
The program at OU focuses its curriculum on liberal arts during the first week and STEM subjects in the second week. It also provides information about practical elements such as the university admissions process, financial aid and how to best utilize the resources available to veterans.
Applications for WSP’s 2017 program closed in May. The program is completely funded (except for travel expenses) and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
“It’s a matter of showing us that education is something you’re taking very, very seriously,” Ellington said of the main application criteria. “If there’s one thing I learned in the military, it’s that determination can carry a person a long, long way.”
print headline: Training troops, Warrior-Scholar Project hosts an academic boot camp at the University of Oklahoma to help student veterans succeed in college.