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OU hosts Warrior-Scholar Project to help veterans prepare for college

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Eric Wineger, the designated central staff member for Warrior Scholar at OU, speaks with a reporter July 18.

Fifteen veterans began their transition to a college environment in an orientation at OU on July 13, thanks to a national nonprofit project.

The Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP), a project designed to help veterans transition from the military to college, has returned to OU. 

“Basically, it’s a transition program coupled with a college prep course,” said Eric Winenger, WSP designated central staff member. “It’s trying to pull the skills out of their military experience and adapt them to college and get them exposed to a college atmosphere.” 

While participating in a two-week class to learn about the process of earning a college degree, veterans have been instructed by OU professors and residing in Adams Tower, all at no cost. 

“We are incredibly proud and excited to host another Warrior-Scholar Project academic boot camp at the University of Oklahoma in 2019,” WSP CEO and former United States Marine Corps officer Maura Sullivan said in a press release. “The program at the University of Oklahoma engages veterans at an all-too-critical transition point, addresses veterans’ misperceptions about college and builds their confidence through an intense academic reorientation.”

According to the WSP website, the program offers courses in humanities, STEM, and markets & business ventures. 

The veterans participating in the program at OU are taking humanities and STEM during their two weeks on campus. In this first week, they are focusing on democracy.

“Democracy is kind of the focus, looking at it from a historical lens of how it grew to what it is today,” said Winenger. “It’s a really closely relatable topic for a lot of us because when we signed on a piece of paper saying we’d serve our country, it was theoretically to serve this democracy. It’s something that no matter what level of schooling they come into the program with, they can at least have thoughts and opinions of their own and then back it with academic text.”

According to the release, 18 of America’s top universities host the project. In addition to OU, WSP graduates have enrolled at prestigious institutions including Yale, Georgetown, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Columbia and Stanford. 

Joshua Wyatt, a veteran participating in the OU program, has already been accepted to the University of Maryland, and had his orientation the Friday before the WSP course began.

“I’m a little nervous,” said Wyatt. “I’ve never taken classes at a huge institution, I don’t know anything about that ... so this program is a really nice introduction to what classes will end up being like.”

Wyatt said he joined the program for similar reasons to why he joined the military out of high school.

“It kind of leads into the same reason that I joined the military – I was not a great student in high school,” Wyatt said. “I graduated with like a 2.3 (GPA)."

Wyatt said his performance made the military a promising path forward.

"I viewed the military as a way to finance my way through school," Wyatt said, "because clearly I wasn’t going to get any merit-based scholarships.”

The Warrior Scholar Project would help him stand out as a freshman student and give him a chance to prove he can handle collegiate course work, Wyatt said.

“Coming out of the military I started applying to schools, started looking at places, and I found that … my military service wouldn’t help me stand out as a freshman student,” Wyatt said. “Schools are still concerned with my 2.3 GPA, and they wanted to see that I could do collegiate level work.”

Wyatt said the WSP has helped him translate some of the skills he learned during his service into an academic environment.

“One of the first lessons was analytical reading, I’m used to reading orders …  in like a traditional five-paragraph standard format, you read them and you pick out the important pieces of information as they apply to you,” Wyatt said. “It’s just different to show you how you can do that with scholarly texts and show you how to write a response. Analytical reading is a cool thing that I thought I possessed, and kind of refined it in terms of scholarly orientation here.”

This will be the project’s fourth year at OU, according to the release, and its seventh year since WSP launched its first program at Yale in 2012. 

OU was one of the very first universities to implement the project, starting in 2015. The project at OU will end on July 27, according to the release, and WSP will serve 275 veterans at boot camps across the nation during the summer of 2019. 

“Our veterans bravely serve and OU is committed to providing resources that give them every chance of success to achieve their higher education goals. The Warrior-Scholar Project makes it possible for us to fulfill that promise,” interim OU President Joseph Harroz said in the release.

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