New initiative is first of its kind in the nation
Monday, May 12, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today (Monday, May 12) a new initiative to help student veterans succeed thanks to a partnership with the Iowa City VA Health Care System and the University of Iowa.

The program, the first of its kind in the nation, is called the Iowa Consortium of Veteran Excellence (ICOVE). The program will be piloted on the UI's campus, where an estimated 600 students identify as veterans or service members.

With support from UI, VA is developing and piloting a comprehensive and integrated program to assist veterans entering college and provide a set of services during their time in school to increase their likelihood of graduating and finding gainful employment. VA has awarded a contract to Halfaker and Associates, LLC to develop program materials and assist with the implementation of the pilot.

Sponsored by the VA Center for Innovation (VACI) and VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service, this project will establish and test a program addressing the needs of all student veterans, over a 24-month period, with particular focus on those with service-connected disabilities. The overall goal is to develop a supportive program with specific requirements and components that two- and four-year institutions can implement on their own campuses.

To read a related story on a course that will be expanded and adapted thanks to ICOVE, read UI College of Education class helps student veterans.

Services involved with the pilot program include the following: a veterans' transition course and textbook; a peer mentoring program; relationship services; career development and jobs club services; employer development; academic staff development; and physical medicine/student health development.

"This initiative enhances the good work we are doing by enabling us to determine what approaches are most helpful and effective," says UI's Chief Diversity Officer and veteran Georgina Dodge, who is also the ICOVE principal investigator.

She adds that the location of Military and Veteran Student Services within the Center for Diversity and Enrichment (CDE), which is part of the Chief Diversity Office, ensures that veterans have access to a broad array of services through CDE.

The team designing ICOVE comprises experts from the Iowa City VA and Halfaker and Associates. Key stakeholders including student veterans and employers will lend critical input and help drive program development.

“A core element of VACI’s mission is to identify and take advantage of opportunities to pool knowledge, ideas, and resources across organizations and sectors to solve complex problems,” says Patrick Littlefield, director of the VA Center for Innovation.

"Since many of the initiatives within ICOVE correspond to projects under development on campus, the Military and Veteran Student Services Specialist, Allen Roberts, will work closely with the project, further strengthening the good working relationship we have with our VA hospital and local employers," Dodge says. "Of course, our military and veteran students will also become involved because veterans tend to support one another."

During the two-year ICOVE pilot, VA staff will collect data on metrics including graduation rates, retention, and employment following graduation.

"This is an exciting opportunity to be involved in an innovative initiative that involves collaboration between the government, higher education, and the private sector to establish a comprehensive program to assist veterans as they transition into school through to obtaining full time employment, with a particular focus on those who are dealing with service related problems," says Dr. Michael Hall, ICOVE director and Iowa City VA neuropsychologist, who is also an affiliated faculty member in the UI Carver College of Medicine.

For more information about VACI, visit For more information about ICOVE, contact Dodge at 319-335-3565, Hall at 319-384-0645, or Roberts at 319-384-2613.

The UI has approximately 600 UI students who identify as veterans with almost 90 of them planning to graduate this May. The UI consistently is recognized as one of the best schools in the nation for veterans, ranking in the top 10 best colleges for veterans in the inaugural U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges for Veterans. The UI also made Victor Media’s list of Military Friendly Schools for the fifth consecutive year last fall.