University of Iowa student Nate Warner always knew he wanted to work in the medical field, but getting there wasn’t easy.
Just a year before the southeast Iowa native began his studies at the UI, he was serving in Afghanistan as a platoon medic with an infantry company.
A private-first class at 20, he was sometimes the highest-ranking medical person at his combat outpost, a position that taught him both responsibility and self-sufficiency.
But when Warner first got to the UI campus in fall of 2012, he had a hard time connecting with his peers as an older, nontraditional student and veteran. His benefits were confusing and, initially, he was hesitant to ask for help.
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 sixth consecutive year this fall.
Now, the human physiology major hopes to help other new veterans on campus by showing them the ropes as soon they get here through the UI’s new Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) program.
PAVE, which is modeled off of a program at the University of Michigan, pairs incoming student veterans with trained, academically successful veterans who are already on campus to help them transition from the military to college.
Through PAVE, peer advisors like Warner help new student veterans identify challenges and refer them to appropriate resources throughout campus.
Sometimes, the guidance is about something simple like where to eat or park, but it’s also about building a sense of community on campus and pointing younger vets toward resources that can help them with their studies and financial aid, which helps improve their overall academic and personal success.
The UI has more than 600 UI students who identify as veterans.
“It’s important to have that resource when you’re struggling, and that’s what PAVE can be,” says Warner, who is set to graduate next fall and pursue a career as a physician assistant. “I think this program will help veterans achieve their goals and help them get to where they can succeed academically, and there’s a lot to be said for that, especially if you believe in higher learning.”
PAVE is just one part of the Iowa Consortium for Veterans Excellence (ICOVE) that’s already underway. The program will be rolled out in full— with a transition course, career transition lab, relationship services, and faculty, staff and employer education— in January 2015.
To read a related story, see College of Education program helps veterans transition.
To read a related story on the ICOVE pilot project, see VA partners with UI in pilot program for veteran education
Michael Hall, ICOVE director and Iowa City VA neuropsychologist who is also an affiliated faculty member in the UI Carver College of Medicine, says the program will provide support for veterans during what is typically considered a difficult transition.
“Student veterans come in as nontraditional students, they’re older, married, some of them have children, and many of them live off campus so it’s harder for them to establish friends and gain the college experience,” Hall says. “The goal of this is to provide a social support network and a network of referrals, or shared information, so that students have somewhere to turn.”
The ICOVE program is a partnership with the Iowa City VA Health Care System and the UI, which has more than 600 student veterans. Learn more about ICOVE.
Interested in being a peer mentor or mentee? Contact the peer mentor leaders for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.