In the fall of 2014, the University will begin its partnership with the Posse Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping non-traditional and underrepresented student groups enroll in top-tier colleges across America.
Through the Veterans Posse Program, an initiative aimed at increasing the number of veterans who attend undergraduate schools, 10 veterans will be attending the University next fall.
These veterans, having served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of conflict, will be chosen through a rigorous screening process that is designed to pinpoint those who exemplify leadership qualities that will allow them to thrive in a selective school.
“The Veterans Posse initiative looks to connect outstanding veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces to top colleges and universities,” Posse President and Founder Deborah Bial wrote in an email to The Argus. “This partnership reflects the shared commitment of Wesleyan University and the Posse Foundation to expanding educational access and support for our country’s servicemen and servicewomen.”
Veterans whom the foundation chooses to attend the University will receive a four-year scholarship to meet their financial needs through a combination of both University and federal funds.
“We expect [that] most of these students will probably be full-need students,” said Director of Financial Aid John Gudvangen.
These students could range anywhere from their early twenties to mid-thirties and would arrive at the University as a “posse”—a group meant to create a supportive and secure environment for the new arrivals. Despite being part of this group, veterans are expected to integrate themselves into the University community as leaders who will contribute to the many facets of campus life.
“That’s what I think will enhance the fabric of life at Wesleyan—the diversity at Wesleyan—those who bring different life experiences, have some maturity in terms of just age,” added Gudvangen. “I think the kind of contribution they bring to the classroom will be very interesting. I mean part of this recruitment cycle is we choose them, they choose us.”
Associate Dean Terri Overton discussed how the veterans’ presence will add to the formation of a stronger, more cohesive community.
“[The heads of the Veterans Posse Foundation] are looking for people who are going to be leaders, so they’re likely to be leaders on campus as well as later in life,” Overton said. “It’s likely to bring a new perspective to our community that’s not well represented.”
Not only will the veterans be active participants in academic life, they’ll also have the option to live side by side with current students in first-year residential housing. Gudvangen stressed the diversity of the incoming students moving into the dorms.
“Some people will be 24, 25, or 26 and might live in a first-year student residence hall, and others might be 32 and have two kids, so they’re not going to live in residence halls, but might live somewhere else, like an apartment right off campus,” Gudvangen said.
Before arriving on campus, the posse members are required to participate in the Posse Foundation’s month-long pre-college training session, a program that will prepare them for life at a liberal arts school. Because the Posse Foundation’s Veterans initiative began in 2012, the University will serve as a pioneer of sorts. Currently, Vassar College is the only school to have implemented the program.
“One might anticipate some challenges with a nontraditional age student population, but of course we have that all the time at Vassar,” said Dean of the College and Professor of Education at Vassar College Christopher Roellke. “I’m sure Wesleyan [does] as well. We have 11 posse veterans with us, and so far…it’s been fantastic. The reception on campus has been phenomenal.”
Overton shared Roellke’s enthusiasm for the program.
“They’re one year ahead of us,” Overton said. “We’re the second school to do it. That said, Posse has 25 years of success in bringing under-represented students to elite colleges all across the country.”
While most students who come to the University have experienced a more conventional transition from high school to college, veterans will have years of experience, not just away from school but also away from home. These new members of the community will inevitably have many invaluable lessons to share and will also have much to learn from their fellow students.
“[The veterans] have spent some time figuring this out before they went to college—this being practical idealism—and now they are coming back to the academic life, bringing some of this practical real-world experience to this campus,” Gudvangen said.
Additional reporting by News Editor Tess Morgan.