Student Spotlight: Genevieve Chase, U.S. Army

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. 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cohort and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Cohort

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

I attended a local community college prior to joining the Army. After serving in the military for over four years, I lost confidence in myself as a student. After my service, I returned to the local community college, regained my confidence, and was accepted to Brown University. 

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

While attending a local community college, I had to switch from in-person classes to virtual learning via Zoom due to COVID-19. In comparison, I enjoyed the virtual learning with WSP fellows and participants more since everyone actively engaged and participated at all times. 

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I was very excited and grateful to take a course at one of the top universities in this nation. More importantly, I was excited to participate in the WSP STEM curriculum this summer with my interest in environmental science. In addition, I am thankful to be connected with other veterans and fellows who are passionate about higher education. 

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

One of the most insightful experiences with WSP was how kind and willing other veterans are to help. It was nice to know that there are resources available to support and guide me through my journey in higher education. 

What were you looking forward to learning during STEM week?

I was looking forward to connecting with other veterans interested in obtaining a degree. I was especially interested in learning Python programming while participating in the research project during STEM week. 

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

My research project was on gravitational waves with guidance from Sylvia Biscoveanu. This phenomenal research project taught me how Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory or LIGO detects gravitational waves. Furthermore, using Python programming, we analyzed and interpreted LIGO data. From this experience, I learned to cherish teamwork as my peers helped each other understand the concepts and present the work we completed through a well-constructed presentation. 

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

All of the fellows and instructors were phenomenal. All the participants, including myself, felt very welcomed and comfortable in this healthy learning environment. 

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

Yes, WSP has helped me gain more confidence as a student. One of the more prominent realizations I experienced from this program is to let myself relax and have fun in academic settings by asking questions and sharing my personal experiences during discussions or seminars. Lastly, with studying skills and tips given by WSP, I feel more confident as a student.  

Pomona All Women Cohort

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

I completed a few online college classes several years ago. I am relatively confident about academics. 

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

Yes, online college. But we operated entirely using blackboard/chatrooms and no Zoom calls. It was great being able to talk directly with the Professors face-to-face and develop more of a rapport during the WSP course.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I was pretty nervous about transitioning to a rigorous university after completely forgetting about all things academic for the past seven years. I was really excited to have an opportunity to learn from other veterans who’ve already successfully made this transition, as well as work on many of the skills that would benefit me as I start college.

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

I have learned how to analyze and engage with complex texts, prepare for seminars, organize my materials, and take advantage of the resources available on campus and online.

What was your favorite session, and why?

It was probably the final seminar when we discussed the previous readings and tied it all together with our experiences as service members. This seminar is when the information first started to really come together.

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

Every single fellow and instructor was great!

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

I definitely feel that I can better picture myself completing the transition first semester. I also learned much more about all the resources at my disposal that I previously didn’t know existed.

Yale University All Women Cohort

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

Before WSP, I obtained an associate’s degree from a community college. I then attended a four-year school for a bit before joining the military. As I am getting ready to go back to school, I realized that I needed support in getting back to academic reading and writing basics. After taking part in the Warrior-Scholar Project at Yale, I am much more confident in my success getting back into the classroom. 

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

Like many others, I had to take my learning experience virtually due to the pandemic. During those times, I struggled to connect with my peers and faculty. In comparison, at WSP, I engaged with every single one of the other participants, fellows, tutors, and professors about the readings and our writing assignments. I also obtained specialized attention from instructors who catered to my academic needs and extended their hand in help in and outside of the classroom from beginning to end. 

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer? 

I heard many great things about the program from an alum and current fellow. He told me the program would help me get ready to return to school. I wanted to be part of a network of students with a similar background who faced the same challenges in transitioning from the military to college students. 

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

I learned so much from WSP, from properly reading and writing academic papers to how to access the different resources that colleges offer for student veterans. 

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

All the fellows and instructors were helpful. They went above and beyond to make a difference in my academic path. Not only that, but they all opened their doors to an extended chain of communication that I feel I can make use of without hesitation. 

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

Definitely, I feel fired up after attending WSP. I am more confident now than I was before participating at Yale. I feel that I belong at a good university and will successfully finish my degree. 

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.