Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs bridges gap between military, civilian life

May 02, 2017

Daryn Vlad

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     Adapting your skillset on a resume is always a daunting task; figuring out how to appeal to an employer can be a challenge for anyone looking to find a job they care about. But the task can be more difficult when you have to adapt military skills to a civilian position.

     The Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs offers several programs to help student veterans transition into civilian life from their time in the military, including Boots to Suits, Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) and other tutoring services.

     These services exist to offer assistance with resumes, career tasks and adjusting to a college lifestyle, among other concerns for student veterans.

     According to Burcu Johnson, veteran student success coordinator, many student veterans, a total that includes 2,900 at UCCS, find it difficult to figure out how to use their military experience in civilian careers and begin to question their sense of purpose.

     The center serves anyone using military benefits, including spouses, dependents children and retired soldiers through their services.

     Boots to Suits, a career-mentorship program offered to five student veterans each semester, helps to bridge the gap, according to Johnson, who said that 15 students apply per program cycle.

     Students can apply online for the program. If accepted, they are interviewed by personnel within the Veteran’s office. The accepted students are then matched with a mentor, who is usually a volunteer from a local nonprofit organization, based on their field of study.

     “(Mentors) meet six times, help with interview skills, networking events and get them integrated into the field they are going into after graduation,” said Johnson.

     After completing the program, the student will receive $500 from the Veteran’s office. The money will be applied to a suit and shoes for a prospective job interview.

     Many students may find the transition from service member to civilian to be a challenge, especially when it comes to finding employment.

     In her experience, after serving for 24 years in the military, Ava Murphy, administrative coordinator for the Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs, said that it can be difficult to adjust to the civilian lifestyle, where every action is no longer dictated like the military.

     “When you’re in the military, you’re told what to do from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. When you come to school, nobody is there to maintain discipline,” she said.

     While Boots to Suits helps student veterans transition to their careers, Peer Advisors for Veteran Education focuses on incoming students who are getting the hang of college life.

     PAVE, a group of student veteran advisors, seeks to mentor freshman or transfer veteran students through their first and second year at UCCS. The program helps students to become more comfortable in their transition to college, said Jennifer Watton, military and veteran marketing coordinator.

     “It’s a very comradery-based culture. (Going) outside of the military into the normal world, it’s very uncomfortable and very unfamiliar,” said Watton.

     “Having these points of contact who have already experienced that (transition) develops that comradery that they need to succeed in a college atmosphere.”

     PAVE helps student veterans stay in school without getting frustrated, and mentors are there to help student veterans outside of academics, said Watton.

     According to Johnson, PAVE allows for academic and career help and connecting students with people outside of the military.

     In addition to the two programs, the center offers a veteran tutoring program with Math Mondays and Writing Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., where student veterans can receive academic support from veteran or military-connected tutors.

     This tutoring program focuses on academics and helping student veterans maintain their grades.

     “They feel more comfortable approaching military-connected people,” said Johnson. “You instantly have something in common with the person who is tutoring you.”

     For more information on the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, visit Gateway Hall, attached to the main parking garage, or their website at uccs. edu/~military/about-us/contact.