Vassar recently accepted a group of ten men and women to form the college’s second cohort of veteran students as part of the Posse Veterans Program, which the college launched in recent years with the Posse Foundation. Patrick DeYoung (Philadelphia, PA), Sidney Johnson (Oceanport, NJ), Keith Kohlmann (Belleville, NJ), Nicole Leadenham (Shrewsbury, MA), Vincent Lenart (Hammond, IN), Huy Nguyen (Fort Drum, NY), Tanya Painter (Bronx, NY), Antoine Robinson (Glen Cove, NY), Jonathan Snyder (Danielson, CT), and Teresa Stout (Virginia Beach, VA) will join their fellow freshmen when the Class of 2018 begins matriculating this fall.
The ten selected students were among over two hundred applicants to attend Vassar through the Veterans Posse Program. Collectively they completed service in the Army, Army National Guard, Navy and Marines, and they include recipients of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. One member went on to intern for six months with first lady Michelle Obama’s staff to help develop the “Joining Forces” initiative for military families. All ten have college or university experience, including some who are currently attending a community college.
Accompanied by members of their families the veterans were celebrated at a ceremony last week also attended by President Catharine Hill, chairman of the Vassar Board of Trustees William Plapinger, Professor of Mathematics and veterans faculty mentor Benjamin Lotto, Posse Foundation president Deborah Bial, members of Vassar’s current posse of veteran students, as well as many other well-wishers. The Infor software design firm, which is providing major financial support for the Posse Veterans Program, hosted the event at their Manhattan headquarters.
“You will all bring exceptional life experience and achievement to the Vassar community,” said President Hill. “The college looks forward to providing you an outstanding liberal arts learning opportunity.” Trustee and alumnus Henry Johnson added a hearty welcome on behalf of his fellow graduates. “There’s a vast association of Vassar alumnae and alumni waiting for you. We’re an enormous network, a posse like you’ve never seen, and we look forward to welcoming you to our ranks,” Johnson exclaimed.
This past September, as part of the freshmen class of 2017, Vassar enrolled the first eleven veterans at any college to participate in the Posse Veterans Program, including Eduardo de la Torre. He attended last week’s ceremony along with several of his posse members, and during an open discussion de la Torre said to Vassar’s incoming veteran students, “You will probably find this experience counterintuitive from the military way, or the way you would expect to think, but open yourself up to thinking differently.” Fellow posse member Fernando Braga added, “The opportunity is yours, but not just yours. It’s very different from the military but also very much like the military. When things come up you can look to your left and right and know someone is there for you.”
The first-of-its-kind Posse Veterans Program aims to increase the number of veterans who attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities. President Hill initially phoned Posse Foundation president Deborah Bial in 2012 to suggest the idea of partnering on this kind of veterans program. “In a split second I knew it was a great idea. And believe me many people approach me with proposals and they are typically rejected,” Bial explained at last week’s ceremony. Within two weeks of the initial phone conversation an agreement was signed between the college and the foundation.
Based on the Posse Foundation’s successful cohort model, each veteran attends college as part of a small group of students, a “posse” -- in this case of fellow veterans -- who receive academic support prior to matriculating and continued mentoring once enrolled. Vassar is also supplementing available GI Bill® and Yellow Ribbon funding to guarantee full tuition for every veteran student selected. Since 1989 Posse has come to be best known for finding and preparing promising students from diverse urban backgrounds to attend selective colleges in posse cohorts, inspired by the experience of a student who said, “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me.”
In November 2013 the Posse Veterans Program received a $1.2 million Global Impact Award from Google, as part of over $3 million in new funding that the program has gained in recent months. Also in 2013 Wesleyan University became the second institution to join the Posse Veterans Program, and this fall Wesleyan will enroll its first posse of veteran students as freshmen. These ten veterans also attended last week’s ceremony, and were welcomed by Wesleyan president Michael Roth.
“We are really pleased that Wesleyan has also admitted a veterans posse, and we look forward to more schools joining this important initiative in the coming years,” said President Hill.
Read more about the Posse Veterans Project:
Veterans arrive at Vassar: http://admissions.vassar.edu/about/stories/features/2013-2014/130831-military-vets-arrive-at-vassar.html
President Hill’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on veteran recruitment: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324100904578402782896046740
President Hill’s op-ed in the Huffington Post on veteran recruitment: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/catharine-hill/veterans-higher-education_b_2093676.html
Google awards $1.2 million to the Posse Veterans Program
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.