Columbia University: Humanities Academic Boot Camp

The above dates are tentative and subject to change.

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.

Princeton University Cohort

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

I used to be a confident student, maybe too confident because I never did homework but still managed to get decent grades. After encountering a suicide-vehicle-borne IED in 2006 while in Afghanistan, I found learning to be a challenge. I struggled with comprehension, retention, and memory issues. In the years since I had to relearn how to learn, and that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to join WSP. I knew that if I could make it through the week-long intensives, I would be more confident about returning to school full-time.

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

The WSP virtual experience was great considering it was virtual! The fellows and professors were so organized and everything was streamlined. They had whiteboards, scratch pads, and being able to share screens was key! The use of Google Drive, Zoom, and the various tools made everything easier.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP?

I love learning and I looked forward to spending time with other veterans who have the same goals and dreams. I knew we’d all connect easily, and develop a support network to cheer us on throughout our educational pursuits.

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

The biggest thing I learned was that despite everything I’ve forgotten and all of the learning issues I’ve struggled with since my TBI, I can take classes I thought were impossible for me like Physics and higher-level math. I know how much effort I need to put in but even better than that, I know how to leverage the school’s resources to work smarter and be successful. My STEM week at Princeton was very challenging but thanks to the WSP fellows who never gave up on me when I wanted to, the experience helped me find my confidence. . . and that is priceless.

What were you looking forward to learning during STEM week?

During WSP’s Princeton STEM week, I was looking forward to learning about STEM in general. I’ve always understood it conceptually but had never considered what it would mean to pursue the field. More than anything, I wanted to push myself in subjects that were intimidating to someone who moved around a lot growing up like Physics and HARD math! 🙂

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

Our team worked on using Python programming to evaluate data to see if we could glean information for research purposes. We learned the basics of Python and how to write code that could give us various data results. It was informative and interesting.

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

I cannot pick just one because every one of them spent time supporting and encouraging me through the hardest parts of the homework. The fellows all rotated the study rooms to make sure we were all progressing. If I didn’t understand something, I could ask multiple fellows who had different styles in explaining and teaching. Hearing something described a different way helped solidify my understanding of the more complex problems and helped me remember. Most people probably don’t need this but with my brain injury, I do. I absolutely love each and every one of them. I cannot emphasize enough how great they are. I will forever be grateful to Dan L., Ana V., Michael B., Dylan P., Logan A., and Patrick H.

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

Yes, of course. Not only am I more confident in going back to school but I’m also more confident that I can do more than I believed I could.

Columbia University Cohort

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

As a kid, my teachers nicknamed me “the philosopher” — I was quite contemplative. However, I was also very energetic, which got me into trouble. I began my education by scoring the highest in my grade and receiving prizes. I also remember my first-grade teacher being so proud of me for scoring highest, but also one day aiming to hit me on my hands with an orange pvc pipe, but instead hitting my lips, that bled turned blue and then doubled in size. I also remember in third grade pulling my principal’s tie as he was forcing me down to hit the sole of my feet with another pipe.

So from the beginning, my educational experience has been so traumatic and emotionally complex, that I just avoid dwelling on any part of it and for the most part avoid school for the sake of my sanity and to preserve the little “philosophia” flame – love of wisdom and learning- within my heart. 

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

I have never participated in any virtual learning, but I loved how WSP organized it.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I was not excited to participate. I was anxious as I usually am with anything related to school, teachers, or organized learning. However, Columbia is one of the few happy places of learning for me. When I was in high school, I met a teacher there who allowed me to do what I wanted and respected me.

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

I have learned many things, but my biggest paradigm shift is becoming a heretical bibliophile. My idea of reverence for books was a sanctimonious effete tradition. A book that is not engaged with a pen, highlighted and dog earmarked won’t be passed down or inherited because its previous owner didn’t really own it. It was just a hollow shelf decoration. 

What were you looking forward to learning during STEM week?

While I always thought of physics as a spiritual pursuit akin to reading a mystical poem. I was never lucky enough to learn it in a class. I feel blessed to have had two great professors from MIT who had the patience to engage our ever-expanding curiosity. 

Columbia University Cohort

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

Currently, I attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ where I have a full year of college education. I have been confident in completing any tasks and challenges proposed by the academic community. But I humbly said that each day I will become more knowledgeable in this field of education.

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

I had a couple of virtual learning experiences. One is the infamous annual training requirement through Marine Net, and the other is being a full-time student at Rutgers University in the spring semester of 2019. WSP shocked me and ensured that every message or learning goal was communicated to every student. I will repeat that I thank and appreciate the logistics, the fellows, WSP Staff, and professors for conducting an amazing course!

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

After I received the notice to participate in WSP this summer, I was ECSTATIC! I felt like things were lining up perfectly in my life and that I was awaiting another challenge to put in my belt. These “challenges” I refer to are my stepping stones towards success. Lastly, this experience enabled me to understand the rigorous academic schedule in an Ivy League school setting.

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

The major components that WSP exposed me to are attending office hours for all classes throughout the course and “de-greening.” Both of which are vital in academia.

What were you looking forward to learning during STEM week?

I was looking forward to STEM week because my goal is to obtain an engineering degree. Let’s just say that I was lost for words during STEM week and will forever remember my experience.

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

My research was based on objects and projectile motion. I calculated the velocity and time it will take for a rocket of my choosing to reach a destination both in and out of our solar system. I used the rocket equation (The Tsiolkovsky Rocket Equation) to my advantage and incorporated my son into my project, making it more exciting and worthwhile! Since he was a toddler, he would sing all the planets in order and the dwarf planets. Hence, as my destination, I chose a dwarf planet called Makemake and revealed the coding necessary to complete the mission.

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you this week so far?

Max and Frankie are incredible! Fully responsible and will always understand that at the end of the day we are all human beings and we need to be there for one another. They gave me this sense of brotherhood and were always respectful. Their hospitality was on point and they worked with such poise that it made the virtual environment a great place to be in. Even more than that, they helped me solve physic problems and instructed me during humanities week.

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

YES..YES..and YES! After this course, I feel invincible. This course allowed me to understand my eagerness to be the best student as possible and confirmed that I’m in the right place! Thank you, WSP!

While most college first-year students are recent high school graduates, for some, higher education follows military service — leading many veterans to struggle with adjusting to the college experience after years spent away from the classroom. In an effort to help student veterans acclimate to civilian life and successfully complete undergraduate programs, Columbia University has partnered with national nonprofit Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) to host a Humanities Academic Boot Camp from August 1-6. The intensive curriculum, offered at no cost to enlisted service members, is designed to help veterans prepare for an academic environment while learning strategies to become better students. (continued)

Read the full article here.