University spotlighted for large number of undergraduate veterans

The Danforth Campus may not have closed in observation of Veteran’s Day on Monday, but according to Inside Higher Ed, Washington University has the fourth-highest enrollment of U.S. veteran undergraduates of any of America’s most selective colleges.

The University reported an enrollment of 20 veteran undergraduates this year, fewer than only the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University.

The Inside Higher Ed author wrote that a president of an Ivy League school once told him that many veterans might not be able to succeed at the nation’s more selective schools. But Lt. Col. David Waters, professor of military science at Washington University, said this is not in line with his experience.

Waters, who has a few students with previous military service in his classes, said students with previous experience in the armed forces are often more worldly and mature than their peers.

“It’s a couple more years of maturity, some life experiences—and I think those years between 18 and 20 are pretty important years. I also think our foreign policy is in the news a lot, so if you’ve spent time overseas, you’ve lived in Europe, you’ve lived in the Middle East, and you’ve been part of some of the policy that’s being played out in the real world,” Waters said. “I think it brings a different perspective to the classroom.”

He personally joined the army before going to college and was deployed overseas before attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“It let me mature a bit. It gave me a sense of the world; I lived in places I probably normally wouldn’t have,” Waters said. “It just made me a more mature and grounded student.”

A new student group, the Washington University in St. Louis Student Veterans Association (WUVETS) is looking to advocate for undergraduate and graduate student veterans.

Assistant Dean Kimberly Curtis, one of the group’s advisors, would not comment beyond reiterating the description on the group’s website, which states that it hopes to offer veterans and their families “resources that will help make their transition to Washington University as easy as possible” and cater to their particular needs.

In addition to U.S. military veterans, a number of international undergraduates at Washington University have served in the military at home.

Sophomore Kuang Yu, 22, served in the military in his home country before coming to Washington University. He said a program like WUVETS could be incredibly valuable, though he has not personally taken advantage of it.

“Serving in the army and coming back to school definitely isn’t an easy thing, and it definitely put me at a disadvantage because I didn’t know how to study anymore when I came back,” Yu said. “But it definitely helped me with time management.”

With reporting by Divya Kumar, Manvitha Marni and Michael Tabb.

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