Just one month ago, 19 prospective student veterans participated in Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) first-ever Warrior-Scholar Project to gain the skills necessary to compete at top universities. Four of those students are now enrolled at Texas A&M, while 10 others are attending other two- to four-year institutions.

The program gave Texas native Alice Martinez an added boost as she made plans to attend New Mexico State University to study animal science. Martinez is not your typically college student. This 40-year-old single mother lives with her daughter in Anthony, New Mexico. After four deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Jordan, she was ready to earn a degree. The TAMU Warrior-Scholar Project made her transition from military life to the classroom much less stressful.

This year’s program focused on university level reading and writing skills. “I came looking for writing skills, but I got so much more,” said Martinez. “Everyone comes for their own reasons, whether it’s reading, writing, or time management. It eases the transition to the college atmosphere and mindset.”

While these skills are critical across all disciplines, the majority of students who attended the Warrior-Scholar program are interested in STEM fields. This requires a significant shift in skill sets to succeed. According to Department of Defense data, more than 70 percent of transitioning veterans indicate an interest in STEM fields. Due to this fact and the great success of Texas A&M’s inaugural program this past summer, the Veteran Resource & Support Center (VRSC) were emboldened to request and received approval for a STEM initiative and pilot program at Texas A&M.

“Next summer Texas A&M will host the same number of student veterans, but will add an additional week for the STEM initiative,” said SGM Donald Freeman USA (Ret.), assistant director of the VRSC. “We believe our nation’s enlisted veterans who have developed real-world technical skills are ideal STEM degree candidates. Once these veterans complete our Warrior-Scholar STEM program, they will have developed the skills necessary to persevere through the rigors of STEM curricula at Texas A&M and other top U.S. colleges, and have a great chance at graduating with a STEM degree.”

The Warrior-Scholar Project gives veterans the confidence and skills to pursue a degree and a more secure future. Fifteen campuses across the country host the program, including universities such as Yale, Harvard, and Cornell.

Texas A&M faculty and staff involved in this program volunteered to teach mini-classes and direct short seminars during the week. Texas A&M’s project focuses on humanities, including government and philosophy classes.

The support and resources the VRSC received for this summer’s program were tremendous, but Freeman says there is still a lot of work to do to pull off a two-week STEM program. “Due to the nature of the STEM fields and the summer commitments of many professors, it will be a challenge to identify the TAMU professors who can commit to teach during our STEM week,” Freeman said. “We’re also concerned about funding as nearly $60,000 in monetary support is needed to make Texas A&M’s Warrior-Scholar STEM program become a reality.”

Texas A&M Warrior-Scholar Campus Program Coordinator Jarrod Romine is a graduate of the program held at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It gave him a jump-start for his freshman year at Texas A&M, where he is now a junior studying political science with a minor in public health. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Romine has been deployed four times in the span of his eight year service and now works as a student worker for the Veteran Resource and Support Center, part of the TAMU Division of Student Affairs, and is a recipient for the Tillman Scholar Award.

“When I first saw the video about the Warrior-Scholar Project, I knew immediately that it was exactly what I needed,” said Romine. “I knew as soon as I completed the program in North Carolina that I would find a way to bring the program to Texas A&M.” When he arrived at Texas A&M, its Veteran Resource and Support Center was already trying to find a way to get the Warrior-Scholar Project to campus. “Because I was at the right place at the right time, I was able to get someone from the Warrior-Scholar Project to come down and talk about how to make it happen.”

David Cornavaca, a scholar from Amarillo, Texas, who completed the program this summer, is now studying kinesiology in hopes of becoming a physical therapist or athletic trainer after graduation. After serving the U.S. Navy as a corpsman, he needed this program to prepare him for a large university like Texas A&M. During a week on campus, Cornavaca brushed up on several academic skills, primarily reading.

“I use to just read, but it was like pushing against brute force,” he said. “Now I read strategically: I read, stop, reflect, and just take it slower so I understand it more.” His advice to veterans considering the program: “Just show up. The program coordinators and host campuses take care of everything, and more important, they take care of you, so just apply and show up.” The only requirement is to be a veteran of the U.S. armed services and express an interest in higher education.

Program funding allows student veterans to experience all aspects of the program free except transportation to get there. While private donors and organizations provide most of the funding for the program, Romine hopes to secure additional donations from individuals, corporations and organizations that would like to see it flourish at Texas A&M.

By Athlyn Allen ’19

If you are a former student or a member of the TAMU faculty or staff who would like to be involved as a volunteer or donate to Texas A&M’s Summer 2018 Warrior-Scholar Project, contact Col. Gerald “Jerry” L. Smith ’82 USMC (Ret.) at 979-845-3161 or gsmith@tamu.edu.

To learn more, visit warrior-scholar.org

Veteran Resource and Support Center (VRSC)

The center supports Texas A&M’s Division of Student Affairs’ vision of preeminence by identifying, developing, and providing uniquely tailored services that enhance academic success and holistic development among veterans and military-affiliated students, which include active duty, reserve, National Guard, military families, and survivors. The VRSC facilitates Aggie veteran and military-affiliated student transitions by integrating the Aggie core values with a foundational philosophy of “Serve Well Those Who Have Served.”

Texas A&M University Division of Student Affairs

The Division of Student Affairs supports Texas A&M University by providing exceptional services, facilities, and programs that promote student success, embody the Aggie spirit, and foster a diverse and inclusive campus community to deepen the understanding and individual application of the Aggie Core Values – excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service.