Warrior Scholars at Carolina: Preparing for the next chapter

Duffle bags in hand, 14 active-duty and recently separated military members arrived last weekend on Carolina’s campus for a boot camp designed to prepare them for their next mission: college.

The Warrior-Scholar Project chose the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as one of 11 universities nationwide to teach and train service members this year about the transition from military life to college life.

“This is the fourth summer we’ve done this,” said Sid Ellington, the chief of staff for the Warrior-Scholar Project. “We’ve grown from one campus at Yale University to 11 campuses and put 200 through this boot camp.

“The scholars have been engaged in military service for a period of years, so they’ve had this dead time between the last time they were in a school environment, high school, and a full time, four-year academic institution. We’re sending them through this boot camp to close that gap in the skills they need and teach them how college works.”

This marks Carolina’s first year working with the non-profit organization, and the scholars came from within North Carolina and beyond the state.

Eric Dueñas took the red-eye from San Diego to be a part of this program. He enrolled in the Warrior-Scholar Project based on a friend’s high praise.

“He attended the inaugural program and would not shut up about it,” said Dueñas. “This is something I was definitely looking forward to: re-learning how to learn.”

The scholars sleep in dorm rooms at Horton Hall, eat at Chase Dining Hall and study in UNC-Chapel Hill’s classrooms and libraries. Immersed in a whirlwind week of college campus life they also learn from seven Carolina professors.

“Every time I work with veteran students I get so much out of it,” said Hilary Edwards Lithgow, professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature in the College of Arts and Sciences. “They tend to be, in my experience, really motivated and prepared to succeed.”

Mike Keyes, a senior airman serving at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, called the professors “amazing”.

“Most of what we’ve experienced with the professors, they seem so passionate with what they do and that extends to us,” he said.

Citing Carolina’s commitment to world-class academics and locale, project organizers said the partnership with UNC was a “trifecta” of location, school-quality and commitment to the military.

Carolina’s participation in the Warrior-Scholar Project is further demonstration of the University’s continuing commitment to the men and women of the armed forces and the nation’s veterans. Education and support programs range from the new UNC Core program, an online distance education program that helps active duty military complete their general education courses so they can apply for follow-up undergraduate degree programs, to the university’s highly acclaimed executive development leadership courses offered through the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Story and video by Carly Swain, Office of Communications and Public Affairs