Peters: A Warm Welcome

by William Peters | 5/21/14 6:35pm

Recently, five incoming student-veterans visited Dartmouth, met current student-veterans and explored the campus. Over Murphy’s, we discussed life at Dartmouth from inside classrooms to down in fraternity basements. From start to finish, we all agreed that, while it is not perfect, Dartmouth has been a great home to veterans.

We, the 18 undergraduate veterans spread across various academic departments and student organizations, agreed that the education we have received here has given us significant opportunities. The College has been extremely accommodating with academic services, especially by providing tutors and helping professors and deans understand our unique circumstances. Several of us, myself included, suffer from brain trauma, and on several occasions, professors have happily worked with me to ensure that I was successful in course work. With many of us studying government, we agreed that the department is outstanding and that we are grateful for their impressive efforts to educate undergraduates about military matters. I took “War and Peace in the Modern Age,” taught by government professors Daryl Press and Benjamin Valentino, and audited “The Vietnam War,” taught by history professor Edward Miller, two courses where students and veterans can discuss topics regarding military experiences. I’ve considered courses like these to be some of the College’s most rewarding opportunities.

Myself and many veteran undergraduates came to Dartmouth from community colleges and state schools. Due to Dartmouth’s high academic standards, many of us essentially had to start over in our academic careers. Nonetheless, we have been satisfied with the full 12-term experience because of the high quality of education. I came in with two years worth of credits and had to start over entirely. This was frustrating at first, but I, like many other veterans, have been able to explore new academic areas like acting and international relations, working with some of the greatest minds in higher education — all because I started over. Though the reset can be frustrating, I would not want my college experience to go any other way.

Dartmouth also allows many veterans to aim for higher standards in terms of a career path through its excellent alumni network and career services. The Tuck School of Business has one of the best matching rates for the G.I. Bill and regularly reaches out to undergraduates so they may become familiar with business school. And our veterans go on to incredible careers. Recently, Jacob Sotak ’13, who learned Arabic here, recently fulfilled his dream of becoming a journalist, accepting a job with the New York Times. During my second term at Dartmouth, I officially began my career as a writer when Phil Schaefer ’64 contacted veterans about contributing to the book “Dartmouth Veterans: Vietnam Perspectives.” I wrote the epilogue to the book — an opportunity that I doubt I would have been offered elsewhere.

Finally, at Dartmouth many veterans find some of their dearest friendships and happiest memories since leaving the military. Many of us have joined Greek houses, and even become officers, such as Michael Burbank ’13, who was president of Beta Alpha Omega fraternity and David Brooks ’15, the social chair of Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Aside from experiencing the various events and quirks of Dartmouth’s social life, many of us have enjoyed connecting with younger students and sharing our experiences and perspectives with them. We can be mentors, as well as team members, as we are also able to take part in sports such rowing, rugby and football. Last fall, Dartmouth heartily celebrated Kevin Price ’14, a father and army ranger, making a glorious 53-yard pick up on his first run against Columbia University.

I’ve found that even in the College’s toughest times, veterans do not forget what’s great about this institution. As a veteran, I am proud of working hard and seeing the rewards of my efforts. Moreover, administrators’ commitment to bringing veterans to Dartmouth and helping them succeed is not only commendable, but adds to the diversity that a liberal arts college needs. The College has become a wonderful home for veterans, and through the efforts of the community as a whole, I think it will continue to grow even better.

William Peters '15 is a contributing columnist.