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November 26, 2014

The Freshman Forum – Student Veterans Taking on the College Experience Together

The Freshman Forum – Student Veterans Taking on the College Experience Together


Written by: Meghavaty Suresh 

Stepping onto a brand new campus of over 21,000 students could be a daunting experience for anyone, not just returning veterans. Understanding this predicament, Jennifer Jeffery, Academic Advisor for the Veterans Career Transition Program at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), oversees the Freshman Forum for student veterans at the Arts and Sciences School at Syracuse University.

Being a veteran herself and undergoing the student experience, Jennifer knows the ins and outs of the issues and needs of student veterans. These concerns can be as small as acclimatizing to student group work or something bigger like relating to a younger age group.

The Freshman Forum is a one credit course that Jennifer teaches in six-to-eight weeks. The course encourages conversations about getting used to life as a student. Every meeting includes discussion about everything from housing on campus to working in class.

“I struggled with some of these issues in school,” Jennifer said. “When you’re doing group-work, especially in the Military, you strive to do your best and in an academic setting it can be somewhat of a different approach amongst the students.”

The current course is orchestrated such that sessions are spent taking the student veterans through the resources available exclusively to them. In one session, Jennifer introduced the students to the career services department where a specific person oversees student veterans and helps them with finding internships.  Another class was spent at the library learning about the many resources students can take advantage of. Jennifer even put together an evening where the students went out for dinner and attended a play downtown. She says that she keeps the course light so that a one-credit course doesn’t end up feeling like a three-credit one.

Adjustment to the dynamics of university life is something that the students talk about a lot. Jennifer has found these casual discussions in a warm environment to be particularly helpful.

“Sometimes people don’t think they need this kind of support from people from a military background,” Jennifer said. “However, having somebody to talk to who is looking at things in a similar way is a great way to support each other and navigate their way through campus.”

It is not just about acclimatizing but also knowing you have people around you who can relate to your experiences. Most student veterans at the undergraduate level are older than the typical population so sometimes it might feel hard to relate. This topic comes up often in class.

Jennifer’s last class focuses on the future. A lot of times people naturally start talking about what classes to take next semester. Considering their schedule and the value that each class delivers, Jennifer’s students take course selection seriously. That is why the final class is dedicated to figuring out what classes to take next.

“Student veterans spend eight weeks with me on this course but they are always welcome to come back to me if they have any questions or even if they need a letter of recommendation at any point,” Jennifer said.

To get a better understanding of the Freshman Forum and other resources designed and made available for student veterans at Syracuse University, click here.

Veterans looking to continue their education should consider Syracuse University’s graduate management degrees designed with veterans in mind as well as all of the undergraduate and graduate programs offered by a school committed for over 70 years to serve those who have served. For more details on the graduate programs that have specialized admissions and resources for veterans, click here.

Meghavaty Suresh is a Graduate Assistant at IVMF currently pursuing a Master of Science in New Media Management from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She holds a Master’s in Management and Bachelor’s in Commerce from Mumbai University.

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