Mentoring Warrior-Scholars: Meet WSP Champion Dr. Fiore Sireci

Warrior-Scholar Project academic boot camps provide a range of experiences that prepare veterans for college. While we’re known for our intensive academic training, beyond boot camps, our alumni are exposed to invaluable mentorship opportunities from peers and faculty at leading universities nationwide. These academic connections are a vital component of helping WSP alumni succeed, and the support network extends into graduate school support and career development. 

In recognition of January being National Mentoring Month, we spoke with one of our most beloved alumni mentors, Fiore Sireci, Ph.D., about his experience in higher education and why he finds working with student veterans so rewarding.

Dr. Sireci is a pre-enrollment expert for WSP’s Diana Davis Spencer Scholars program and an instructor for our academic boot camps at Harvard and Columbia Universities. A lifelong learner, he’s been studying veterans’ history for 40 years and teaches graduate students about design philosophy at Parsons School of Design in New York City. 

“Loved it more than anything else I’ve ever done”

Dr. Sireci first became acquainted with WSP as a lecturer and writing instructor for the WSP-Harvard Academic Boot Camp in 2022, where he was a writing preceptor specializing in first-generation, second-language, and nontraditional students. “I loved it [WSP] and have loved it more than anything else I’ve ever done,” he said. “I taught the morning classes, and I was amazed. I thought it was a one-week job, but I was so impressed that I’ve been working with WSP ever since in different capacities.” 

The following year, he taught during the WSP-Columbia Academic Boot camp, where he used to teach, as a writing instructor and lecturer on the Declaration of Independence. 

Dr. Sireci’s background in veterans’ history and his family’s long military affiliation fuels his passion for helping student veterans realize their true potential. “A lot of veterans already have incredible experiences in the real world, and you want to work with them to complement their civilian ambitions,” he said. “All veterans get a more well-rounded experience than your average college student. Even the lowest ranking service member has some leadership experience — having been a leader or been with bad and good leaders. Having someone in the class with that exposure brings something different. Veterans don’t realize how valuable they are to the American classroom.” 

Helping WSP alumni thrive with 1:1 mentorship

In 2022, WSP welcomed 16 military veterans to its inaugural cohort of Diana Davis Spencer (DDS) Scholars, a program providing support and mentorship opportunities to our alumni as they continue their higher education journeys. Dr. Sireci has played a pivotal role in the program’s success. He was initially involved as a consultant and then as a program assistant and has since logged nearly 400 hours to ensure each DDS Scholar receives tailored support. “It is a very intensive program, but we had a lot of early success the first year — had students get accepted to Yale, Stanford, Harvard, and many other leading universities,” he said. 

Since then, Dr. Sireci has deepened his role with the program and gone above and beyond to connect with each new cohort. He said that 85% of his work has been targeted, one-on-one time with alumni. “For some students that’s working on strategy, some it’s coursework help or editing research papers. We also help students with summertime applications to programs like REVU and scholarship applications. We do mock interviews and presentations, review resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and have workshops on topics like writing and time management,” he said. 

While students learn to set themselves up for success, Dr. Sireci said that disappointments do happen. “We work with students as they experience failures, too, helping them move past that and decide what’s next. It’s really inspiring,” he shared. 

Connecting students through book clubs and creative storytelling

As the DDS Scholars program grew, Dr. Sireci organized a book club in 2023 to engage with students outside of the classroom. “Some of the greatest writers in the English language have been veterans. People are reading all the time, and I wanted to start a book club honoring what they were already excited about,” he said. Book club selections have ranged from The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBoius, What It Is Like to Go To War by K. Marlantes, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer Holland. 

Moved by the experiences and resilience of the students he works with, Dr. Sireci also began recording the stories of DDS Scholars to empower others to pursue their passions. In his Spotify podcast, Professor Fire Interviews, he exclusively interviews WSP alumni. The show is a creative outlet for students to share their recent struggles and successes and discuss their journeys toward fulfilling academic and life goals after military service. “I tried to select people of different backgrounds to help inspire others in the cohort,” he said.

“Lift your head up” 

When asked what advice he has for veterans interested in pursuing higher education, Dr. Sireci said cast a wide net and stay optimistic. “Don’t exclude community colleges, but don’t exclude Ivy League schools either. Cast your net wide at first, look at all possibilities in your area, network, and ask people you know about their experiences. Most importantly, lift your head up and look beyond your immediate situation — there are people out there who want to help you.” 

Dr. Sireci exemplifies the lasting impact that mentors have on students, especially those transitioning from military service to academia. From lectures to writing workshops to book clubs and more, he has added immense value to WSP’s programming, helping us to achieve our mission of helping every degree-seeking enlisted veteran succeed in their pursuit of higher education and beyond. 

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