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Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs
Dartmouth president works to ensure educational opportunities for wounded veterans
About two years ago, Dartmouth President James Wright started making periodic trips to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md. and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to meet wounded U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, seeking to encourage the young men and women he met to consider pursuing their education following their discharge. His efforts grew out of a special sense of individual responsibility he felt as a former U.S. Marine.
During the course of these visits (nine of them to date), Wright's sense of responsibility - both his own and that of American society, - grew as he went from bed to bed and spoke with patients about their experiences and their longer-term aspirations. "I found the women and men I met to be ambitious, dedicated, and capable of meeting the world's challenges, but they faced the large obstacle of completing their own education first," he said.
He was particularly concerned that many of the veterans had specific questions about specific schools or programs and that they would lose access to college counseling resources once discharged from military service.
"We've got to find a way to welcome [wounded veterans] back," said Wright in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education. In looking for that way, Wright turned to American Council on Education (ACE), the largest U.S. higher education association. ACE President David Ward agreed to have his organization develop a program to support wounded veterans pursuing higher education, and Wright pledged his support for the program, for which he has helped fundraise more than $300,000.
The program ACE developed was dubbed Severely Injured Military Veterans: Fulfilling their Dreams. Its mission is to restore the hope of attending college by providing veterans the resources necessary to develop an actionable plan for education. The program includes academic advisory service providing direct support to the injured veterans and their families as they begin to think about educational and career goals. The program has brought on three full-time staff members at Walter Reed National Naval Hospital, Bethesda Naval Hospital, and Brooke Army Medical Center to help veterans meet their educational aspirations.
Already the program is making a difference. In the first week of the program more than fifty veterans asked for appointments with counselors, and this spring, a Marine Wright met with at Bethesda will enroll in Dartmouth as a transfer student. Two other Iraq War veterans are planning to matriculate at Dartmouth in the fall, including one who was identified and encouraged by the ACE counselor working at his hospital.
"I am always moved by the service members stories and inspired by their courage and sacrifice," said Wright. "As a result of the ACE program, these young men and women who served so unselfishly and bravely will now be better served themselves. I wish we could do more. We can do no less."
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