College of Education > News and Publications > 2016: 07-09 news > ‘Transition is the Mission’ helps veterans make the most of time at Penn State

‘Transition is the Mission’ helps veterans make the most of time at Penn State

Making the transition to college can be daunting for any student, but for military veterans it can be particularly challenging. A new class, being piloted at University Park this semester, helps student veterans maximize their time at Penn State academically, professionally and personally. The course, Education 100, is open to all student veterans.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Making the transition to college can be daunting for any student, but for military veterans it can be particularly challenging.

Erik Orient
Erik Orient, director of the Penn State Engineering Ambassadors, is piloting a class specifically for veterans at Penn State called Transition is the Mission.

A new class, “Transition is the Mission,” being piloted at University Park this semester, was designed to address that, by helping student veterans maximize their time at Penn State academically, professionally and personally. The course, Education 100, is being offered through the College of Education, and it is open to all student veterans.

Erik Orient, who is teaching the class, has made the transition himself. After serving in the military for four years, he came to Penn State while remaining on active duty.

“I’ve done it myself, and I know some of the struggles,” said Orient, director of the Penn State Engineering Ambassadors. “The military community is very tight knit and members are unified on a common mission. A university environment can feel fragmented and individualized. For veterans, this unfamiliarity can feel very, very foreign and uncomfortable. Consequently, many veterans don’t maximize their college experience because they go to class, get their grades and they’re done. That’s what I did. I don’t want to see others do the same.”

The course aims to help the students get the most out of all the resources the University has to offer. That includes navigating the GI Bill; learning about resources that are available from both Penn State and State College area agencies; deciding on a major and career path; getting the most out of job searches; and getting involved in extracurricular programs.

Another challenge for veterans can be heading to college without a clear idea of what they want to study.

“It’s all too common,” said Renee Thornton-Roop, associate director of the Office of Veterans Programs at Penn State. “We want to catch it on the front end. It’s hard because they don’t have the luxury a traditional student has to feel out their likes and dislikes.”

Veterans receive 36 months of benefits through the GI Bill, which they have 15 years to use. Thornton-Roop said students who know what they want to do early on can typically earn a bachelor’s and take some classes toward a master’s under the GI Bill.

Thornton-Roop and Mary Fisk, coordinator of Veterans Outreach, will teach several sections of the class including information on making the most of the GI Bill, tapping into community resources, landing internships and studying abroad.

Thornton-Roop and Orient said eventually they would like to make the class available to all incoming student veterans. For more information or to enroll in the class, contact Orient at evo100@psu.edu.

This article originally appeared on Penn State News.