Veteran support expands on campus

Three Yale students launched an initiative this summer intended to help address the University’s underwhelming outreach to veterans and ease their transitions back to college campuses.

Last year, Jesse Reising ’11, Nick Rugoff ’11 and Christopher Howell ’13 developed the Warrior-Scholars program, an initiative of their non-profit Operation Opportunity that supports military members looking to enroll in college following their tours of duty. Lasting for one week in June, the program — which is designed to improve reading and writing skills — takes place on Yale’s campus, though it accepts veterans planning to attend any university. Nine veterans, all of whom had served between four and 30 years in the military, attended the program this summer, Reising said.

“Our goal is to properly welcome our nation’s veterans home by helping them make the best use of their hard-earned G.I. Bill benefits,” Reising said. “Most veterans have the potential not only to succeed in college, but to be leaders in the classroom. We seek to unlock that potential.”

In classes taught by prestigious Yale faculty members — including John Gaddis, Donald Kagan, Norma Thompson and Charles Hill — students spent several hours each day preparing assignments on topics such as global affairs and democracy, which relate to veterans’ experiences while on duty, Reising said. He added that students also received instruction on subjects such as college-level critical reading techniques and the undergraduate admissions process.

Howell, who served nine years in the Australian military, said he was inspired to begin Warrior-Scholars by his brother David’s efforts to help him reintegrate into student life at Australia’s Sydney University after returning from service. Howell later transferred to Yale through the Eli Whitney Students program, which allows non-traditional students to apply to Yale.

Reising said the program employs a curriculum based on Howell’s brother’s efforts and designed by Yale faculty.

“Having such a big life change like that is very difficult,” Howell said. “I didn’t do very well in high school so my brother David took time to teach me the basics of being a student.”

Organizers of both the Warrior-Scholars program and Yale’s Yellow Ribbon Program said they are looking to expand.

The Yellow Ribbon Program, a national initiative that came to Yale in 2009, helps bring veterans to the University by providing them with funds to cover their tuition, supplementing those available through the G.I. Bill — a national law that offers benefits to veterans planning to go to college. Previously, the University had only 50 spots in the program available across Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and all 12 professional schools, said Josh Ray ’13, vice president of the Yale Veterans Association.

“When vets were looking at what schools to go to, Yale was lagging behind some of the other peer institutions,” he said, adding that the 50-person cap only served as a way to make Yale’s program seem more competitive.

Robert Peter Cuthbert Jr., a U.S. army veteran and a participant of the Yellow Ribbon program, said the program has expanded its funding significantly: it now accepts an unlimited number of students from Yale College, the Graduate School, the Law School, the School of Management and the School of Medicine; five in the School of Architecture and School of Nursing; three students in the Divinity School and School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; and two in the School of Public Health. He said the Yellow Ribbon funding is now “some of the most generous in the Ivy League.”

Both programs hope to continue growing in the future. Reising, now a student at Harvard Law School, said his group wants to hold a Warrior-Scholars program on Harvard’s campus by 2014, and expand to four to six more schools within five years. Additionally, he said Yale’s program will allow 24 students to enroll in a two-week program next summer.

Participants of this year’s Warrior Scholars program lived in Saybrook College, ate their meals at the Pierson College dining hall and attended classes at the School of Architecture.

Ashton Wackym contributed reporting.

Correction: Oct. 5

A previous of this article misidentified Robert Peter Cuthbert Jr. as a 2012 graduate of the Yale Law School. In fact, Cuthbert was a student in the Department of History during the 2011-’12 school year. In addition, the article misstated the number of veterans enrolled at the University last year. Though there were 13 veterans enrolled in Yale’s Yellow Ribbon Program, additional veterans are enrolled independently of the program.

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