ACU launches innovative Veterans Transition Program

ACU has just completed a pilot program that will help support student veterans as they transition from the military to studying at ACU via a free, two-week preparatory program.

Through tailor-made orientation activities, workshops, lectures, and tutorials, the newly launched national Veterans Transition Program will equip student veterans with the skills to succeed at university study by helping to develop self-efficacy, a sense of belonging, and expanded peer networks.

The Veterans Transition Program is a program developed and delivered by ACU Education Pathways. The design of the transition program was guided by research and existing successful American models. The Veterans Transition Program has been designed to address some of the key challenges that student veterans face when transitioning into higher education. Navigating the cultural shift from military service to academia can be daunting. Student veterans often experience issues such as increased time since last attending formal education, feelings of isolation and alienation, and loss of identity.

One of the participants of the Veterans Transition Program was Jai Hoffman, an army veteran who will commence studying a Bachelor in High Performance Sport at the ACU Banyo Campus in Semester 2.

Jai grew up on a large dairy farm located near the town of Murwillumbah in Northern NSW. He often dreamt about joining the army, so after completing his trade as a boilermaker, Jai decided to enlist at the age of 29.

“I joined the Royal Australian Infantry Corp as a Rifleman and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2016. During that deployment I served as a Small Team Commander that provided protection to Australian Diplomats, so that they could safely train, mentor and advise the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Government. I left the Army in 2019 and am still actively involved with Army Reserves.”

Jai decided “to take a huge leap” and enrol in University this year.

“ACU was offering a course that greatly appealed to me. As I investigated my options and requirements for entry, I discovered ACU’s Veterans’ Entry Program (VEP). This university admission scheme recognises time served and leadership roles within the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as credit toward an ATAR score.”

ACU’s work in empowering student veterans to realise their academic goals saw the university launch the VEP in 2019. The launch of VEP made ACU the first Australian university to offer consistent entry requirements for veterans, regardless of state of residence and study. The pathway scheme allows for adjustment factors following two years of military service. VEP and Student Veterans Support Program  are part of the wider Student Veterans Services, which aims to provide ongoing support to veterans during their time at ACU. The Veterans Transition Program has been developed as a supportive first step.

“My experience with the transition program has been extremely positive. The program offers members transitioning from the ADF a chance to develop the skills necessary to confidently begin academic study. I have learnt philosophy, academic writing, referencing, navigation of the student portal and how to access support like the Academic Skills Unit.

“I feel that the Veterans Transition Program has given me the foundational skills and the confidence to start my studies. As a mature age student, it would have been quite daunting, starting study without it. I feel assured I have the basic skills and knowledge to successfully begin my course.”

And what would Jai say to a veteran who is considering university study post service?

“I would highly encourage members of Defence to consider study at ACU. ACU are leading the way for Australian Universities in supporting Veterans. It would be highly advisable to undertake the Veterans Transition Program.”

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