Universities and community colleges are seeing a large influx of veterans due, in part, to the implementation of the Post 9-11 GI Bill. Over 2 million student veterans are expected to be on college campuses in 2020. The dual transitions from the military to civilian life and the military to academia can be challenging. Numerous studies on the effectiveness of peer-to-peer approaches have demonstrated that peers “who have been there” can be a credible source of support, help overcome the stigma around asking for help, and open the door to improved well-being. That is the rationale behind the PAVE program.
HOW PAVE WORKS
Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) is a peer support program that connects incoming student veterans on college campuses with student veterans who are trained as Peer Advisors who can help them navigate college life, address challenges they may face, refer them to appropriate resources on and off-campus, and provide ongoing support. PAVE builds on the camaraderie veterans experience in the military to create a sense of community and connectedness that contributes to academic and personal success.
Successful student veterans are trained as Peer Advisors to work one-on-one with student veterans to help them transition to campus life. The program is managed on each campus by a student veteran Team Leader with the help of the Veteran Services Coordinator (VSC) and support of a University Champion. Team Leaders serve as ambassadors for the program, recruit and train Peer Advisors, identify resources on and off campus that student veterans might need, and supervise Peer Advisors. Veteran Service Coordinators receive training and materials on PAVE so that they can provide on-campus oversight of the program and ensure succession planning for program sustainability. The role of the University Champion is to provide higher-level administrative support and advocate for veterans services on campus.
The main goals of the program are to:
- Ease the transition from the military to academia
- Improve student veterans’ sense of connectedness to their school
- Create a safe haven and source of support
- Identify mental health issues and other concerns in a timely manner and connect student veterans with appropriate resources
- Improve student veteran academic performance
- Increase student veteran retention rates
PAVE is currently in place on 42 campuses nationwide. A web-based platform includes online training modules for Peer Advisors; an app that allows Peer Advisors to track the work that is being done and quickly identify resources; and a management console tailored for each PAVE partner campus that allows schools to match student veterans with Peer Advisors, monitor trends, including types of concerns identified, and identify gaps in services. The PAVE National Team continues to provide technical assistance to each school, sharing best practices from the field, and facilitating communication among partner campuses. A rigorous evaluation to measure satisfaction and outcome metrics is also part of the program. Since the program’s inception, over 1,400 Peer Advisors have been trained and over 20,000 student veterans have been contacted by Peer Advisors.
The PAVE program is part of M-SPAN (Military Support Programs and Networks), a group of programs at the University of Michigan developed to address the needs and challenges faced by service members, veterans and military families.