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Vet Students Make Transition to College

There are about 1,500 military veterans and active duty servicepeople at University of Alaska Fairbanks. They are considered “non-traditional” students because they tend to be older and have more life experience than teenagers right out of high school. And they also have years living in military culture, and often need help converting to college culture. Yesterday, the Department of Military and Veteran Services at UAF hosted a panel of active duty and veteran students to talk about what has helped them to be successful at school.

Nicholas Dugger, an engineering student who left the military last year and now is in the national guard. He says converting from military to campus culture was challenging because he was used to someone else scheduling his time.

“Incorporating family time, and studying, and learning to mesh all that together it’s basically a battle I play every, every semester.”

Natalie White is still active duty, and that’s a full-time job in addition to being a student.

“People walking by me in the hall, who don't know I'm affiliated with the military think I'm stand off-ish, hard, all-business.”

Josh Bayles retired from the military in 2019. He says he was challenged to adjust to changes as his studies progressed.

“Each semester, realizing you have to start over. The military is all about the routines”

UAF has an office of Military and Veteran Services. Director Jackie Morton says sometimes the faculty and staff have to do the adjusting.

"They are people coming from very prescribed environment and asking a lot of questions, you can reduce their anxiety."

University of Alaska Fairbanks is considered a very military-friendly campus -- with special pricing for military students, formal designation as a Purple Heart Campus, and now ranked as one of America’s Best Military-Friendly Online Colleges. 

Deidra Estrada served 18 years. She says she got a lot of respect from faculty and staff, but actually needed a lot of guidance toward her fisheries degree. She is echoed by Nicholas Dugger and Don Sumic.

“Just because we’re older, doesn’t mean we know what we’re doing with this.”

"Be patient with us, because we come with baggage."

"Can you break this down for me Barney Style?  Can you walk me through this?"