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UI launches new veterans program

BY IAN MURPHY | MAY 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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Current and future veterans will have an easier time integrating into college life in upcoming years.
The University of Iowa and the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Health Care System announced details for the pilot Iowa Consortium of Veteran Excellence program on Monday.

ICOVE comprises seven components that officials hope will assist veterans throughout their college experience, and it is a partnership among the UI, the Iowa City VA, and Halfaker Associates, a company based in Arlington, Va.

Michael Hall, the director of ICOVE and a VA hospital neuropsychologist, said those components include more career services, workshops for veteran families and spouses, and a refreshed transition course for veterans, which will include a special textbook written specifically for the course.

Other aspects of the program include peer mentoring, academic faculty training, education for Student Health on how to help veterans, and employer development-marketing the benefits ofhiring veterans to businesses and companies.

The goal of the program is to provide specified assistance to veterans and families, Hall said. ICOVE was announced on Veterans Day 2013 and will be fully rolled out in the spring of 2015.

The UI ranks sixth nationally of 234 institutions in best colleges for veterans, according to U.S. News & World Report. Last fall, there were 505 veterans enrolled at the UI.

Hall said this process will allow the UI to develop a gold standard in veteran’s education, and already 15 other two- and four-year colleges have expressed interest in implementing the project. He said the VA Center for Innovation allocated $2.2 million in funding for the first two years of the program.

Georgina Dodge, the chief diversity officer for the UI and a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said the cost to the university is minimal, because a grant is helping cover the UI’s cost.

Dodge said the pilot program is being designed so that other universities around the nation can better serve their veterans.

“I stumbled to and through education,” she said. “People should not have to stumble.”

Officials are hopeful the pilot can be implemented at two- and four-year institutions.

“We do want it to be accessible for both two- and four-year institutions because a number of veterans will utilize technical degrees,” Hall said.

Allen Roberts, the military veteran’s education specialist with the UI Veterans Services Office, said veterans face challenges traditional students don’t, an area ICOVE is hoping to address.

In some cases, study skills can be “rusty or nonexistent,” Roberts said. Additionally, he said veterans often have spouses and children, which can create additional strains on top of being a student.

Michael Considine, the president of the UI Veterans Association, said it took time for him to switch back from the technical mindset of his military service to the academic mindset needed to succeed in college. He said his grades suffered his first semester after his deployment.

Officials, including a U.S. representative, have high hopes for ICOVE, expecting it will help student veterans have a smooth college experience, from enrollment to graduation.

“It’s about transition and reintegration into civilian life,” said Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa.

Loebsack said he will advocate for the program at the congressional level.

“This is a transitionary period, what we want to be able to do is provide those services, and then step away and have that person move on with their life and be a successful person,” Hall said.


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