BGSU plans Veterans Center
Incoming student veterans can arrive on campus confident in the knowledge that fellow student veterans will be on hand to help them navigate the transition to college life.
BGSU is one of just three schools nationwide participating in a pilot program administered by the Veterans Administration (VA) called PAVE (Peer Advisors for Veterans Education).
PAVE is a peer support program that connects incoming student veterans with student veterans already on campus. PAVE peer advisers can help identify any challenges that student veterans are facing and help locate appropriate resources on or off campus. They provide ongoing support to help student veterans meet academic and personal goals.
According to Barbara Henry, assistant vice president for Nontraditional and Transfer Student Services (NTSS), the VA chose BGSU for its excellent reputation in assisting student veterans. The University is recognized yearly in Military Times Magazine as one of its “Best for Vets.”
The VA approached the University in August 2013 to join the program. It got off the ground at the start of the spring semester and now involves 30 current students being mentored by two fellow student veterans. The mentors went through a formal training process to be authorized by the VA. NTSS hopes to add two more students as mentors in the fall.
Mentor Josh Noblet, a senior majoring in history from Galion, Ohio, who is a sergeant in the Army National Guard, says he frequently finds himself helping students navigate their tuition assistance and other aspects of the GI Bill.
“I’ve gotten a very positive reaction from the student veterans,” Noblet said. “Our NTSS folks don’t always have time to tackle all these problems, so having someone students can call who explains what to do is much better than being lost.”
Generic details about every conversation between the mentor and mentee are logged into an online system for use in a formal study being conducted by the University of Michigan’s Depression Center to see how effective the program is on a college campus.
“Each school was given the framework for PAVE and we can design it as we want to,” explained Eric Buetikofer, recruiter and transfer adviser for NTSS. “We are attempting to change the campus culture. All brand new student veterans each semester who are on the GI Bill are assigned a mentor right off the bat. So the new students in summer and fall will also be assigned a mentor. Our hope is that our past mentees will become mentors.”
BGSU is also in the design phase of a new Veterans Center, to be located near the NTSS offices in College Park. The center will be a dedicated gathering space for student veterans and will include areas for more private conversations. The hope is that it will be ready to serve students in the fall.
“So far, all indicators are that this will be wildly successful,” said Henry. “When you add in the Veterans Center, which was the one piece we were missing, we will be able to connect all of our student veterans to each other and offer that peer transition support as well as a social gathering space.”
Among the goals of the program is to reinvigorate the Student Veterans Club on campus. Noblet said the new Veterans Center will be a big part of making that successful.
“I have a class with one of my contacts and when I told him about the center he was so excited about having somewhere to go. I think people are really going to flock there, especially to the Veterans Club.”