University of Iowa announced as pilot site for student veteran program

ICOVE could become 'gold standard' nationally

People walk along the sidewalk by Madison Street on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.
Stephen Mally/The Gazette
People walk along the sidewalk by Madison Street on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

The University of Iowa on Monday was officially introduced as host to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ first-of-its-kind pilot program aimed at improving support for veterans on college campuses.

The Iowa Consortium of Veterans Excellence — or ICOVE — aims to help veterans transition to academic life, support them with specialized resources while they’re on campus and assist them in finding a job after graduation.

The goal of the two-year pilot program, officials said Monday, is to generally improve the college experience for veterans by driving up GPA averages, increasing camaraderie on campus, focusing on hiring outcomes for veteran graduates and supporting family members.

The program also aims to become a “gold standard” for how to support veterans trying to attain a degree so that other universities and colleges nationally can implement similar programs in the future. ICOVE director Michael Hall, Iowa City VA neuropsychologist and affiliated member of the UI College of Medicine, said as many as 15 institutions have reached out to him to express interest in the ICOVE program.

Many of those institutions are in the Midwest, Hall said, although this issue is hot nationally as more veterans are returning from service terms following the drawdown of troops from the Middle East.

“We want to provide a unique holistic approach to assisting veterans,” he said.

The new program is the result of a partnership between the Iowa City VA Health Care System and the UI, which has about 600 students on campus who identify as veterans or service members. The VA has hired Halfaker and Associates, LLC to develop the program materials and help with its implementation at Iowa.

Its services include a veterans’ transition course and textbook, a peer mentoring program, relationship services, career development, and job placement services. It also will educate university staff and health care providers on specialized needs of veterans.

Project officials and VA staff will collect data on metrics like graduation rates, GPA, retention and employment to gauge the program’s success, Hall said. Although, he said, it could take a few years to see all the anticipated benefits from the program.

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