Amherst College: Humanities Academic Boot Camp

Apply now to be part of our free humanities academic boot camp for service members and veterans in partnership with Amherst College!

This week-long humanities academic boot camp prepares service members and veterans for the challenges and rigor of humanities or liberal arts bachelor’s degree programs. Using the topic of American democracy to guide discussions and assignments, veterans and service members will learn foundational skills to help them succeed with their transition from the military to higher education.

During the week, students are taught by professors from our partner college and mentored by peers who have completed the program and have successfully transitioned to college.

Amherst College Cohort

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

Before joining the military, I had taken a full year of college. During my enlistment, I used Tuition Assistance to take two classes a semester at a community college. Two months before starting WSP, I finished up my last course there. I find that my level of confidence changes from subject to subject. Overall I’d say I’ve never been very confident when it comes to schoolwork.

Had you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how does your WSP experience compare to that?

I had taken online classes before, but nothing like WSP. Those were run on either Blackboard or Canvas and had more of a “teach yourself” model. Although the professors were available for help, it felt very independent. Since WSP took place over Zoom, it felt more immersive than the virtual learning I grew accustomed to. I liked interacting with the instructors, fellows, and other scholars in real-time.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I was looking forward to gaining the skills necessary to help ease me back into attending college full time. I was also excited to connect with other veterans starting their college careers back up.

What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

The studying skills taught by the fellows on the third day of instruction will be really helpful. I’m not the best at studying, so the tips we were taught made me realize that there’s a much easier and more effective way to structure and go about studying.

What was your favorite session, and why?

My favorite session was the lecture with professor Cullen Murphy and Thomas Ricks. I felt like I could have listened to them talk all day! Not only were each of the lecturer’s interesting to listen to, but the discussion was very fluid and engaging.

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you at WSP?

All the fellows and instructors were great and essential to helping me work through WSP. The writing instructors, Cassie Sanchez and Roy Andrews helped me immensely improve my writing abilities in such a short amount of time.

Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student?

My confidence has definitely been boosted since completing WSP. I feel more prepared for this upcoming school year and plan to use all the skills I learned as best as I can!

Amherst College Cohort and Yale University Cohort

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

My educational experience heading into my first WSP program was only online college. I didn’t consider myself to be a confident student whatsoever. Following my first experience, I enrolled at the University of Chicago. I finished my first quarter before returning to WSP for Yale’s STEM course. Today, I am a much more confident student. Think you know something? Read it again. Trust me; you missed something.

Had you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how does your WSP virtual learning experience compare to that?

I had completed almost 100 credit hours online in the way we knew online school pre-COVID-19. I have also completed three classes at UChicago in a more virtual classroom format. WSP is absolutely nothing like “old” online school and much closer to how UChicago imagines it. This isn’t forum posts and replies – WSP implements legitimate face-to-face instruction by leveraging technology.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP the first time, and why were you excited to come back for a second program in STEM?

I was excited to come to WSP the first time because it was a big step in my transition from the military and into higher education. I had just come home from a deployment, and I was excited to get a sneak peek into what life would be like for me at a top college or university. That being said, my reason for coming for round two was different. Frankly, the military just gave me an affinity for a challenge, and that is what WSP is. It’s challenging. You learn more in a week or two than you often will in a few months. When given that kind of opportunity, I can’t turn it down.

What have you learned so far through WSP that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

There are a ton of good nuggets of information regarding how to stay organized and effectively study, which have helped me. I would be wrong not to mention that. The most significant value added from WSP is the confidence the program instilled in me that I can succeed at any university I attend. The idea of UChicago is daunting, but it was much less daunting after WSP.

What were you looking forward to learning during STEM week?

Data science. UChicago has three different economics degree tracks: business, empirical, and data science. Having the data science research group to participate in basically gave me a free weeklong test drive to see if I enjoy data manipulation and visualization. Surprise, I do, and I am now much more confident about the prospect of the data science track.

What research project did you work on, and what did you learn from that experience?

Data science with Dr. Allison Merritt! It was a great experience. Our group worked through data sets focused on biology (penguins) and consumer trends (Spotify top 100). I had a bit of coding experience before but had never worked in a collaborative setting doing it. No prior knowledge was necessary, and we were all relatively capable practitioners by the end of the week.

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you at WSP, either during your humanities program at Amherst or at Yale STEM?

Of course! I should definitely shout out Eric Winenger and Anthony Lenkiewicz first. They ran a fantastic course at Amherst in 2019 and have continued to check in on me and see how I am doing.

With that, I would love to shout out Dan LaFlamme. Dan is awesome! I would encourage any servicemembers or veterans to engage with him. Besides being ridiculously good at math, he knows how to interact with veterans. He makes you feel comfortable while you struggle through concepts that are novel to you, like calculus-based physics.

Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student?

Definitely, WSP puts you through the academic meat grinder. If you can handle one week or two weeks of WSP, I have no doubt you will feel at home during any week at any university in terms of workload.

What have you been doing since you first attended WSP at Amherst?

I was transitioning out and moving to Chicago! Luckily, UChicago has a great group of veterans that Beau Butts has assembled, and I really feel at home there.

What advice would you give to enlisted veterans or transitioning servicemembers who might feel intimidated by the idea of going to college?

Take the first step. A few years ago, I thought I would end up at a small school or somewhere struggling to make the cut, and I never really thought I was cut from the right cloth academically. Now, after two rounds of WSP, I am looking to double major at UChicago. Life comes at you fast.