East Carolina University (ECU) used an NEH grant to develop a summer boot camp to help veterans prepare for college life. This program arose out of a need identified by the student veteran office on campus. Specifically, student veterans felt out of place on a campus with predominantly typical-age students and needed support to adjust to college. Centered around the theme of homecoming in Homer’s Odyssey, this program offers veterans the chance to reflect on their experiences, familiarize themselves with the college environment, develop a cohort, and demonstrate their expertise - setting them up for success on the college campus.
The two-week bridge program uses novels, films, and folklore about war and homecoming to provoke discussion about experiences of war with the aim of helping veterans reflect upon their military identities and how they might leverage their experience in an academic environment. The program includes orientation activities that introduce participants to the tutoring center and the writing center, equipping them with academic resources they will need during the academic year. Participants in the program receive three humanities course credits, which also lightens their course load during the first semester at college. In addition to these academic benefits, the program provides participants with the chance to build a supportive cohort. Students have also expressed that participating in this program helped decrease anxiety and depression.
Finally, the program includes a medical humanities component that builds connections between the medical school and the veteran community. Participants are offered the opportunity to act as a discussion co-facilitator in a pre-med and medical school class on military medical ethics. This benefits veterans by offering them a space to demonstrate their military expertise in an academic environment while deepening medical students’ familiarity with the veteran community.