Mike Brown is the Director of the Office of Veterans and Military Service Members at Villanova University.
When I got out of the Army, I went right into college, and once there, I sort of felt like I was on an island. Faculty and staff at the school went above and beyond to point me in the right direction and take me under their wing. Without that initial support, I would not be here today. Also, once I started my professional career, I found purpose and meaning in helping others, and using my experience as a guide to assist. Now that I am here, there is no place I would rather be!
Some of the challenges along the way, is the mass of information that veterans receive upon exit from the military. The overload can create an overwhelming feeling, and create missed opportunities. The military does a great job of getting people ready for service, not the best upon exit from service.
My experience from undergrad helped guide me. I had never written a resume, or sat on a job interview before, so those things seemed foreign to me. So here at Villanova, we use career coaching, mentorship, and networking on a consistent basis to take away some of those fears, and help veterans find their niche, and find their sense of belonging.
My own experience went from overwhelmed to, I absolutely love higher education. I needed some direction, and several faculty members helped me find my way.
I think overall student veterans today are doing a better job of pursuing colleges and universities that are the best fit, but there is still more work to be done in that arena. That is why I love seeing organizations like Warrior Scholar Project, 50 Strong, and Service to School doing such amazing work with veterans as they find the best school for them.
My typical interaction depends on the student, and their class standing. Usually the first year on campus can be a lot, but once acclimated, students here are asking to be connected to people in their field, are looking for meaningful work experience, and are wanting feedback on their resume. Having said that, our students are also just wanting to have a college experience and have some fun along the way, but overall my interactions are relationship based, and not transactional in nature.
It is hard to get into Villanova, so the challenge is always my desire for having more veterans here on campus, and the reality of that challenging admissions process. Having said that, we are focused on creating more pathways for student veterans and other military affiliated students here, and that will continue, regardless of those challenges.
There will always be change, but as we progress, I hope that the trend of veterans pursuing higher ed, at great schools across this country continues to grow, as I believe that will only improve outcomes.
Collaborate with other campus stakeholders, outside organizations, alumni, and leadership to ensure that there is campus and community buy-in. I would also encourage people to join professional organizations and network with others in your field. We encourage our students to network, and I am of the belief that we should also network, and learn from others.