New student veteran program at the University of Iowa


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On Veterans Day, a newly developed program unique to the University of Iowa was discussed in hopes to better assist student-veterans during their transition into civilian life and to further educate community members about veterans’ needs.   The project is known as the Iowa Consortium of Veteran Excellence, or ICOVE. In a nutshell, ICOVE is a group of programs designed to help student-veterans transition from military service into student life, to assist them during their time at the university, and to help student-veterans obtain jobs following graduation.

Other components of ICOVE include community services for employers and also university personnel services for educating academic staff and Student Health staff about military culture. After nearly two-and-a-half years of planning and development, Sept. 30 marked the start of the project. The program was discussed to provide further information about it before it goes into full effect during the spring of 2015.

Beyond helping student veterans through college, ICOVE Director Michael Hall emphasized the importance of community collaboration. “Student veterans don’t live in a vacuum,” he said during the panel. “We want an understanding of the military culture.”

Right now, many of these programs are being used on an individual basis, Hall said, but they do not exist as one cohesive program. The UI is the only university with ICOVE right now, but officials are hopeful that the program will be disseminated to schools nationwide. Hall, a neuropsychiatrist at the VA Medical Center, said the implementation of these programs will benefit student-veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. He noted many student veterans who he helps at the VA Medical Center face different adversities than veterans in the past.

“[Compared with the past], there’s been a disproportionate burden of people serving this country,” Hall said. “Not only are there a fewer number of people serving the country, but they’re also being called upon to do more and more.” Providing further education to UI Student Health Service, as well as veteran employers, he said, will help mitigate veteran-specific challenges.

ICOVE will work as an overarching program to stop what Hall calls the “scholastic spiral,” or problems resulting from transitioning into civilian life, which further perpetuate issues with academics. After 11 years of serving in the Army, student veteran Adam Day described his transition from military life to student life as difficult.

“It is crazy overseas in the infantry, and it’s hard to adjust — there were times when I was like ‘I don’t know if I can even go to school,’ ” Day said after the panel. Day said having self-motivation with getting extra help for classes was important because he didn’t have the study skills and basic course knowledge most students have when they come to college directly after high school.

Setting veterans up with internship experiences in their field of interest is another goal for ICOVE because of today’s competitive job market. Don Rhodes, subject matter expert for the ICOVE program, said today, whether you’re a veteran or not has become secondary to your qualifications for the job.

“Relevant work experience makes you more competitive in the job market,” Rhodes said during the panel. “Over the years, what I have found is that the experience itself becomes somewhat more valuable than the degree. The idea of getting these early experiences through your entire college career will pay off in the end.”

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