A new student mentoring initiative aimed at helping active-duty service members, military veterans and their families successfully transition to the college classroom is being launched this fall at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The Veteran and Military Affairs Student Ambassador Program is designed for service members currently enrolled in classes at UTC, military veterans, dependents and spouses. An essential component of this initiative is that UTC students will play an important role in easing the transition.
The initiative is a rebrand and restructuring of what was previously known as the Veteran Peer Mentoring Program.
“This is for anyone military-connected,” explained Sylvana Matthews, UTC director of veteran and military affairs. “The previous program was restricted to mostly just veteran students and not necessarily everybody in the community, so we broadened it to include dependents that are support systems for veterans as well as spouses—because they go through their own transition as well with the veteran.”
Matthews came to UTC in August 2021 after serving in a similar role at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee. She said her office noticed a low level of engagement among veteran students, which inspired the development of the new program.
“During onboarding, we had learned that many of our military-connected students were stressed; they needed to feel more comfortable and welcomed as they went through this transition in their lives,” Matthews said. “This program allows for more student-to-student interaction because the student ambassadors will work in the office, which immediately increases engagement.
“The student ambassadors allow our veteran and military-connected students to have more creative control on how to increase engagement through programming, and what better use is there, of course, than by playing by their natural inclination to increase comradery and find other like-minded individuals.”
At the beginning of the fall semester, Matthews said her office has a database of approximately 500 people, “and that’s not including alumni, facilitators and even departmental staff—such as deans—who are veterans that support the initiative.”
The Veteran and Military Affairs Student Ambassador Program services include peer-to-peer support, transition support programs and services, academic college success and case management services, and connection to on- and off-campus resources.
For more information about Veteran and Military Affairs, please email email@example.com.