The Veteran Resource Center provides veterans and their dependents with specialized academic advisors
Sydney Carpenter | News Editor
In America, the number of veterans and dependents interested in pursuing higher education rose 3% after the addition of Chapter 33: Post/9-11 educational assistance to U.S. Code Title 38—VETERANS’ BENEFITS, reported in a study by Liang Zhang of New York University.
To accommodate incoming veterans, in 2012 an organization associated with the University of Michigan known as M-SPAN — Military Support Programs and Networks — launched a pilot version of their initiative known as PAVE — Peer Advisors for Veteran Education — intending to ease the transition of student veterans from the military to college, increase student veteran retention rates and improve student veterans’ academic performance.
After their successful pilot, M-SPAN launched a nationwide campaign, gaining 42 campuses including Western Oregon University.
“I was initially interested in forming a peer advising program because I was witnessing the success of other mentorship programs,” said Western Veteran Resource Center Director Colin Haines.
Haines reported reaching out to fellow colleges that were already participating in the program; after receiving information on how the program functioned on their campuses, Haines determined that PAVE would benefit Western veterans and their dependents. Starting officially in 2019, the Veteran Resource Center began offering the services associated with PAVE.
“It’s a unique program,” said senior exercise science major and team leader of the PAVE program Adam Dryden. “Incoming veterans or dependents are paired with an upperclassman familiar with Western’s academics and the different Veteran Affairs benefits.”
In years prior, incoming first-year veterans or dependents were assigned to a general university advisor specific to their major. Dryden explained that VA benefits are different from most financial aid, so general advisors may not be as familiar with their structure compared to a member of PAVE.
Additionally, Dryden explained that while advisors are required to be upperclassmen and be a veteran or a dependent, candidates are required to go through a short certification program.
“I think it’s effective,” said Dryden. “It takes a few hours to complete. You run through scenarios and then you get a certification at the end.”
Despite the challenges imposed by COVID-19, PAVE has maintained 36 first-years using VA benefits. Dryden explained that while PAVE is meant to serve underclassmen, transfer students are also welcome to participate in the program.
“We want to help in any way that we can,” Dryden explained.
For more information or questions regarding PAVE, visit the Veteran Resource Center website at wou.edu/veterans/.
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