The University of Texas at Arlington will work to ease the transition from combat to a university setting for 50 military veterans in the fall as part of a $122,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Alexa Smith-Osborne, principal investigator of the Student Veteran Project, will begin recruiting eight to 10 social work majors this summer to serve as peer facilitators for veterans throughout their first year on campus.
The facilitators will be trained in the assistant social work professor’s Student Veteran Program, created in 2007 to act as an intervention mechanism for veterans.
Since then, the Student Veteran Project has been in clinical trials, and Smith-Osborne has been able to offer only four sessions per veteran in retention, on-time graduation assistance and career preparation.
Now she will be able to make her model a staple that will be envied by other universities. The Student Veteran Project will follow veterans throughout their first year at UT Arlington, providing them individually tailored educational and emotional assistance.
Smith-Osborne plans to seek additional funding to keep working with them until graduation.
State Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck and UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari looked on Tuesday as a Chase official presented the $122,000 check, part of the financial institution’s $1 million effort nationwide to help veterans with higher education opportunities.
UT Arlington alumnus Art Peña, a Navy veteran who served two tours in Iraq, said it’s crucial for universities to provide mentorship, guidance and career advice to veterans — something Peña does for Chase by assisting with job searches.
“Transition from military to civilian life is tough,” he said. “It’s not easy to write a résumé. It’s hard to translate that experience into civilian terminology.”
More than 1,500 veterans are enrolled at UT Arlington, which placed 70th of 120 institutions named “Best for Vets: Colleges 2014” by Military Times.
The Health and Human Services Department also awarded the university a $300,000 grant in September to create a Veterans Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
The College of Nursing will enroll a group of veterans in the fall and allow them to bypass entry-level courses based on military education and training. They can earn their nursing degrees in 15 months.
“We believe that many of these individuals, because of their military experience and training, should be on a fast trajectory to leadership roles in the nursing profession. We hope that we are helping them get a jump-start,” Beth Mancini, College of Nursing associate dean, previously told the Star-Telegram.
Cluck, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, said the grant will help the veterans and that support will echo out into the community.
Karbhari said, “It will ease the transition from solider to citizen.”