Promoting veteran student success at Ohio State

Upper-class veterans serve as peer sponsors to help new students transition from military life to higher education.
By: | November 3, 2020
Veteran community advocates at The Ohio State University help former members of the military get involved in campus life.Veteran community advocates at The Ohio State University help former members of the military get involved in campus life.

A team of students serves as veteran community advocates who look out for their former-military peers in every college and on each branch campus of The Ohio State University.

Some 34 juniors, seniors and graduate students are posted in student life, disability services, career services, the college of medicine, athletics and other departments to support the interests of the university’s 2,300 veteran students.

“It’s a very very strong program with broad reach and broad results,” says Kevin Cullen, the university’s assistant vice provost and director of military and veterans services. “During COVID, these functions are probably even more important because you don’t have large, face-to-face contact.”

These advocates guide various departments in understanding the challenges student veterans face and facilitate interactions between administrators and students.


More from UB: How higher ed scores victories for vets


The advocates also develop outreach programs to help veterans get involved in campus activities and in surrounding communities.

In a similar program, upper-class veterans also serve as peer-to-peer sponsors to help new students make the sometimes difficult transition from military life to higher education.

Each sponsor, who works with about 40 new students, marshals the veterans through orientation, helps them enroll in classes and connects them with an academic advisor, among other functions.

“Quite honestly that’s where we lose a lot of students in higher ed—early on, whether they’re veterans or not, whether it’s COVID operations or not,” Cullen says.

How student advocates promote #veteran #studentsuccess at @OhioStateClick To TweetCullen office’s also works with local Rotary Clubs whose members serve as professional mentors and coaches for veteran students. This year, many of these mentoring activities are being conducted virtually.

Ohio State also has a suicide prevention office that conducts special outreach for veterans. The campus also provides counselors who are dedicated to serving military students and try to expedite therapy.


More from UB: Putting veterans front and center on your campus


“That’s a critically important program, especially during COVID, where we know that higher ed has a mental health crisis that’s affecting all students,” Cullen says,

Another key strategy that Cullen points to is that his office is part of the university’s Office of Academic Affairs.

“We believe that’s a best practice because the focus of higher education is to retain and graduate students,” he says.