The experiences of a student veteran can vastly differ from those of a typical undergraduate student. Through an Engineering Frontiers and Research Innovation grant, (via a Research Experience in Mentoring supplement), the College of Engineering is paying attention to those differences.
Thomas Bradley, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and associate director of Systems Engineering, leads an annual summer program geared specifically toward student veterans with an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Bradley is also a faculty member with the CSU Energy Institute.
Like the National Science Foundation grant that funds it, the program centers on the topic of bioenergy. Though student interns who participate in the program can be pursuing any STEM degree within the university, for the 10 weeks of the summer program, their work focuses on bioenergy, photobiorefineries, and sustainability research. During the 10 weeks, students also submit and present their research at the International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels and Bioproducts, where they have opportunities for direct interaction with leaders in the field.
Veterans Symposium Oct. 25-26
Student veterans are invited to CSU’s Veterans Symposium, Oct. 24-25, in the Lory Student Center.
The event will feature keynote speakers, breakout sessions and discussions on transitioning from higher education to the workforce. Register here.
Creating a space for learning and problem solving
By facilitating positive learning experiences through the program, Bradley and faculty hope student veterans will see completing an graduate degree as a feasible next step in their futures. An important component of the program is that faculty participants heed the charge to build mentoring relationships with student veterans.
“Our students attend weekly meetings with faculty, where they go through mentorship exercises and discuss how to succeed in the university, in careers, and in intellectual growth,” Bradley said.
The second year of the program wrapped up in August. Alex Day, a senior math and computer science student, walked away with practical experiences he hopes to take with him into graduate school next fall.
“There was a lot of freedom given to me, and coming from the military it’s not always the case that everyone’s easygoing. With that flexibility, I was able to build a confidence in my ability to develop answers to problems on my own,” he said.
The student veteran summer program is set to continue until at least 2018, and Bradley is optimistic about the impact of the program.
“Everyone should understand that CSU is one of the best universities in the nation at supporting and educating veterans,” Bradley said. “CSU facilitates a lot of programs to support and encourage veterans. What was exciting about this program was that we are challenging faculty to put these ideals to practice, and we can show that programs like this really do make a difference. We believe with good reason that a graduate degree from CSU is a good pathway to a career and lifelong fulfillment for these students.”