Academic boot camp for vets: Warrior-Scholar Project
Jesse Reising ’15 was eager to start his career as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps upon graduation from Yale—until his dream was derailed by a violent collision he made as a tackle during the 2010 Harvard-Yale football game, resulting in partial paralysis of his right arm.
Medically disqualified from the Marines (he’d attended Officer Candidates School during college), Reising decided to serve those who serve in the military. Last summer, at Yale, he and two friends launched Operation Opportunity, with an initiative called the Warrior-Scholar Project, a two-week “academic boot camp” to help veterans transition from the military to college. Nine veterans from four of the five branches of the military participated in the intensive workshop, attending classes on writing and reading, working closely with academic tutors, and enjoying nightly dinner discussions. Their instructors included Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Lewis Gaddis and Yale Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel.
The program was such a success that it will expand at Yale next summer to include 24 warrior-scholars who plan to enroll in colleges around the country. And in 2014, Reising and Peter Brooks (Harvard College ’06 HBS/HKS ’14), a Marine Corps veteran, will extend the Warrior-Scholar Project to Harvard University. They recently received a generous offer from former Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady (HBS ’54), who has pledged to donate $50,000 to the program each year for the next three years, provided his donation is matched two-for-one.
Before matriculating at HLS, Reising worked for six months in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province as a contractor. But he wanted to do more, and the Warrior-Scholar Project is helping fulfill his passion for public service.
“Veterans’ transitioning to college likely have not used academic skills since high school and have difficulties adjusting to a fundamentally different social and cultural environment,” says Reising, who hopes to become a federal prosecutor. “Unfortunately, these challenges often lead to veterans dropping out of college before earning their degrees. We believe that veterans have the potential not only to succeed in college, but to be leaders in the classroom. We seek to unlock that potential.”
From ‘Hurt Locker’ to ‘Paper Chase’
This year’s 1L class at HLS includes 16 military veterans. There are also nine 2Ls, six 3Ls, and three LL.M.s at HLS with records of military service. Thirteen are attending through the Yellow Ribbon program, through which the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs matches what a law school offers to pay for a veteran’s tuition and expenses. HLS is one of very few schools making the maximum commitment—50 percent—which means, with the V.A.’s match, these veterans attend for free. Others are funding their HLS educations through the G.I. Bill and student loans. Each of the three Navy JAG lawyers in the LL.M. program receives a scholarship from HLS equivalent to the amount covered by the school under the Yellow Ribbon program; their remaining costs are covered by the U.S. Navy.
Some of this year’s service members:
(L-R) Alexandra Mealer J.D./M.B.A. ’16, Lauren Gore ’15, and Gregory Saybolt LL.M. ’13
Alexandra Mealer J.D./M.B.A. ’16, an Army captain and 2007 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. She spent 14 months in Afghanistan, first as a platoon leader in Kandahar, then as a company commander in Bagram responsible for 600 soldiers and civilian contractors.
Lauren Gore ’15, a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy who was twice chosen to represent the 1st Infantry Division in the Best Ranger Competition. Deployed to Iraq for seven months in 2009, he served as second in command of a 130-man Light Infantry Company, conducting counterinsurgency and capacity-building efforts.
Gregory Saybolt LL.M. ’13, lieutenant commander, U.S. Navy, who spent two years in Bahrain as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialist. A lawyer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, he will serve aboard an aircraft carrier advising on international law of the sea after earning his LL.M.
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Dean Martha Minow
Dean Martha Minow describes the veterans and military students as a “simply terrific” group who add a great deal to the school: “To a person, the military veterans and individuals in active service who are among our students bring outstanding qualities of leadership, focus, and perspective to their work and to the entire community.They also elevate awareness about the legal and policy issues affecting veterans, the significance of law in contemporary warfare, and the significance of energy policy and other substantive concerns to military priorities.”