ALEC faculty lead mentoring program for first generation student veterans

General Mark Welsh III with #FirstGenVets

Texas A&M’s recognition as a military-friendly university attracts many veteran students, and as a result, provides various activities, programs and support to ensure Aggie student veteran success. One of these is the First Generation Veterans learning community, or #FirstGenVets, a year-long comprehensive program composed of first generation undergraduate veterans and faculty and staff from across the university.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (AGLS) facilitators include Drs. Summer Odom, Julie Harlin, Barry Boyd and Lori Moore – faculty in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications – and Kelly Essler, AGLS staff member.

“First Generation Veterans is designed to foster relationships between these student veterans and college faculty,” said Odom, associate professor of agricultural leadership. “We want to equip first generation student veterans with the necessary tools and resources to be successful at Texas A&M.”

According to the Texas A&M Veteran Services Office, there are approximately 675 undergraduate veterans, 274 of which are first generation college students. Through #FirstGenVets, student veterans are paired with faculty and staff from across the university and participate in monthly exchanges tailored to each individual student veteran’s needs. Every other week, guest speakers focus on topics requested by the student veterans, with conversations happening around study skills, Texas A&M’s Veterans Resource Center, money management, networking opportunities and the StrengthsQuest evaluation.

“The majority of our speakers present on topics relevant to student life,” Odom said, “such as the transition from being a veteran to being a full-time college student.”

The first cohort of #FirstGenVets consists of 11 students from six colleges across the university. According to mid-year evaluations conducted by program faculty, the student veterans cited the amazing faculty and professors, camaraderie among cohort members, and online learning opportunities as the best things about their fall semester.

“It’s important to provide our student veterans with programs that reflect their unique needs,” Odom said. “#FirstGenVets has the potential to grow and supplement the many other resources that make Texas A&M veteran-friendly.”

#FirstGenVets is supported through a grant from the Office of the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Odom said the idea is to grow the year-long program over time to allow more student veterans to take advantage of the comprehensive program’s structure that learning communities offer.

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