Hames, Carolyn

Advisor Department

Honors Program




Student-Veteran Orientation; Military transition; Loss and meaning-making


Transitioning back into civilian life for military personnel can be very overwhelming, unfamiliar, and challenging. For a majority of these individuals, there is a sense of loss of rigid structure, fierce companionship, and purpose. Most have experienced the traumatic death of others during combat deployments. Thus, these individuals may have a harder time transitioning back into civilian life. One way veterans can turn their losses around is through meaning-making outlets, such as obtaining a college education. Higher education provides an opportunity to re-enter civilian life with a new purpose, learn new skill sets, and engage academically and socially with similarly minded peers. While attending URI’s Student Veteran Organization meetings, I observed that student- veterans often felt ostracized and stereotyped because they did not attend college in the “traditional” fashion (after high school). Consequently, many did not attend URI orientation, and thus were starting school at a disadvantage. As a result of hearing these concerns, I worked with Rachael Garcia, Assistant Director of Veteran Affairs and Military Programs at URI, and Jeff Johnson, an academic advisor, to construct and implement an orientation program specifically programmed for both incoming and current student-veterans. This orientation program included informative sessions on navigating URI’s campus and online resources. Additionally, the program offered a variety of other resources specific to veterans. Between the informational sessions and the resource representatives, this orientation program aimed to guide student- veterans through their educational and financial experiences, as well as elicit feedback that could be analyzed and applied to the future program. In order to further my understanding of the military-to-civilian transition, I interviewed a group of current student-veterans at URI on their transition experience and how it specifically pertained to college. Through these interviews, I gained a more personal awareness of the obstacles, advantages, losses, and gains that student-veterans face during this transition period. I also learned more about their specific needs during this transition and how URI can adjust to meet these needs. Overall, this project created a program for a minority population at URI that will ultimately help them feel like they belong and positively reinforce their decision to enroll at URI. This orientation program will provide a supportive foundation for future student-veterans who are ready to redirect their lives and make meaning of losses they experienced during their time in the service. Hopefully, it will raise awareness of and appreciation for their presence on campus.