The University’s first Warrior-Scholar Project participants and staff members gather at Nassau Hall.
Courtesy Warrior-Scholar Project
‘Boot camp’ helps veterans prepare for transition to the classroom

Fifteen military veterans and active-duty service members from around the country traveled to campus in June to take part in the Warrior-Scholar Project, a one-week academic “boot camp” designed to smooth the transition from military to academic life. 

This was Princeton’s first time hosting the Warrior-Scholar Project, which took place at 15 college campuses this year, said executive director Sidney Ellington. The University’s announcement that it will begin accepting applications from transfer students this fall was a major factor in the decision to bring the program to Princeton, he said. 

Each day began at 9 a.m. with a seminar led by Princeton professors on issues relating to freedom and democracy. Participating faculty members included Jacob Shapiro, a professor of politics and international affairs who studies topics such as political violence and security policy; and Miguel Centeno, a sociologist who has written about war, global systemic risk, and nation-building, among other things.

Later in the day, the veterans attended sessions on concepts such as note taking and time management, followed by seminars and workshops on academic writing that were led by staff from the University’s writing center. 

The program aims to equip veterans — many of whom will apply to college in the fall — with the skills needed to succeed in academia and to be leaders in the classroom. “It completely changes their idea of what education could be for them,” Ellington said.

In recent years, few U.S. veterans have enrolled as Princeton undergraduates. Initiatives like the Warrior-Scholar Project could help to change that, said Michele Minter, vice provost for equity and diversity. The University has said that one of its goals in reinstating a transfer program is to encourage more veterans to apply. A small group of transfer students is expected to enroll in the fall of 2018.

“Princeton values smart, high-achieving, mature, resilient students who have real-life experience,” Minter said. “Veterans have all of the qualities that we are looking for in our student body.”

PAW spoke with three participants (see story below) who said they may apply to Princeton.

‘You change what you think is possible’

BRADLEY AMUSO Marine Corps sergeant, 23, Montgomery County, Md.
Frank Wojciechowski
Why Princeton “Being on campus and going to a few classes and speaking to a few professors … the environment gets me excited. A goal I would really like to achieve is to come and learn from the best.”

Most beneficial part “The skills you’ll use on a day-to-day basis while in school. Like time management — I think most veterans are probably pretty good with time management, but it’s something that needs to be adjusted when you’re in an environment like this.” 

How the military changed his view on education “Once I came to the conclusion that deep down I did have ambitions to receive a [college] education, it was a little too late in terms of transitioning from high school. But after four or five years in the Marine Corps, you change what you think is possible.”

JAMES GOINS Air Force staff sergeant, 25, Nashville, Tenn.
Frank Wojciechowski
Princeton’s “vibe” “A lot of universities are very liberal, and I like that Princeton — to some degree — has a more balanced perspective. Princeton’s vibe just resonates with me. It’s not really polarized in any direction; it’s more like free thought, at least from what I’ve experienced.”

On professors “The professors I’ve met here not only have been knowledgeable in their own fields but in other fields as well, which I think helps [students] to build a better dialogue, get a better understanding of topics, and develop a better perspective on life.” 

Looking ahead “In high school, I wasn’t the best student. So I hope that the program can show that I’ve progressed and that I’m constantly trying to improve. ... I’m trying to set an example that I don’t accept ‘no’ in my life.”

PHILIP KAY Four-year Army veteran, also served in the Israeli army, 31, Orefield, Pa.
Frank Wojciechowski
Back to school “When I start community college this fall, it will be the first time going back into academia since I graduated from high school 14 years ago. And I did nearly all of my schooling in Hebrew, so I really want to get better at writing in English.”

Key takeaway “I always thought it would be amazing to come [to a school like Princeton], but it was always sort of a fantasy. But now I feel like that fantasy may be achievable, and it’s like the ultimate feeling of self-accomplishment.”

On encouraging veterans to apply to top schools “We sometimes sell ourselves short. A lot of veterans think, ‘Princeton? That’s unattainable for me.’ I think [the Warrior-Scholar Project] can boost confidence and ... they can come see it, relate to it, and think ‘this is actually an attainable goal for me.’”