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UW-Stout's Veteran Mentorship Program offers peer-to-peer support

UW-Stout's Veteran Mentorship Program offers peer-to-peer support

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MENOMONIE — As a military veteran, transitioning back into civilian life can be hard. Add in going to college and some veterans might need a little support from a friend.

University of Wisconsin-Stout is the first UW System school to offer a comprehensive, online peer mentorship program for student veterans, according to Sarah Godsave, UW-Stout’s outgoing military education benefits coordinator. The Veteran Mentorship Program matches newer student veterans with other student veterans to help set and achieve their academic and personal goals.

Mentors and mentees are matched based on common academic interests, career goals, life challenges and experiences.

The program is offered through the Mentor Collective platform. Students can use the platform’s discussion guides and goal-setting activities to help spark conversations. Topics range from time management and work-life balance to networking and job-seeking advice.

UW-Stout has about 400 veterans enrolled each semester.

Tayler Roal, a first-year student majoring in Master of Fine Arts design, is a mentee in the program. His mentor is Daniel Amundson.

Roal connects with Amundson periodically by text. “We talk about school and challenges,” said Roal, of Neenah, who was a security forces E-2 Airman in the Air Force. He was stationed in Vogelweh, Germany, and deployed to Incirlik, Turkey.

“It is important for Stout to have the program because some veterans are introverted and need someone to help answer questions. I decided to be a part of the program to help my experience be as smooth as possible,” Roal said.

Godsave said the mentorship program fills a gap at the university.

“Veterans are excellent students, and the values instilled in them in the military are the foundation of their success,” Godsave said. “When veterans leave the military, the cultural transition can lead to stop-out as students. The Veteran Mentorship Program connects students in danger of stop-out to students with similar values and in this way increases retention and graduation.

“Peer-to-peer mentoring is a proven effective high-impact practice for creating community and building relationships between students,” Godsave added. “Because student veterans transition at higher success when relationships are established on campus, we know this program will be a bridge-builder for all of our veterans.”

Amundson, a junior construction major from Sparta, was active duty Air Force from 2013 to 2019. He decided to become a mentor to help his fellow student veterans.

“As a veteran transitioning back into civilian life, it is hard enough, but going to college is another ball game,” Amundson said. “Some people have a harder time than others transitioning to college and might have a lot of questions. This program gives them the assurance they are not alone and that there are other veterans and resources out there to help if needed and to help them feel like they belong.

“I wanted to be able to help out fellow transitioning veterans with anything that they would need, whether that be someone to talk to, providing them with resources or information or pointing them in the right direction,” he added.

It is up to the mentees how often they want to reach out, Amundson said.

Godsave said many times veterans will not ask for help. “This program gets them in a place where they will feel comfortable to ask for help by connecting with a peer,” she said.

“As a unique program in the UW System, designed specifically for UW-Stout student veterans, we can connect the Veteran Mentorship Program to our enduring goals, which aim to support a diverse student population, create a more understanding and welcoming environment, and sustain a culture of inclusion for all students,” Godsave said.

UW-Stout also has Stout MentorLink for first-year students that matches them to an upper-level student peer mentor to help connect and to increase retention. The program also gives upper-level students a leadership opportunity and a chance to give back to UW-Stout.

The university has a Military and Veteran Resource Center, a dedicated on-campus space for veterans, service members and their families, located at 304A Bowman Hall. It serves as a centralized location for veterans to ask questions about education benefits and participate in veteran-specific activities.

UW-Stout was named a Best for Vets College in 2019 by the Military Times. The university also has a Hall of Heroes installation at the Memorial Student Center honoring students and staff who died in military service to the U.S.

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