Veteran James Thomas (left), an FCLS sophomore, channels his younger self in an Edge4Vets exercise designed to help veterans tap into the values they developed as soldiers. Edge4Vets is directed by the GSE’s Tom Murphy, center. Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Fordham University has launched a new program to help its student-veterans transition into non-military life.

The Edge4Vets program, designed to assist United States military veterans in the difficult adjustment from life soldiering to life in the classroom, gets underway this semester with a series of monthly workshops at Fordham. The program kicked off on Aug. 30 with a special event at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Midtown Manhattan, attracting some 60 veterans currently enrolled at Fordham. Also attending were representatives from United War Veterans, Iraq Afghanistan Veteran’s of America and the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs.

The program grew out of the Graduate School of Education’s Human Resiliency Institute and is co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Social Service and Fordham’s Veterans Initiative.

“Some of our students are coming from desert fatigues to a college desk in as little as 30 days,” said Tom Murphy, director of the Human Resiliency Institute. “They were in a fixed environment, where their hair was cut, their clothes were standard, where rules and policies were set for them. But now they are in civilian society and in college, which is a highly fluid environment. We want to help them navigate school life and beyond with as much success as possible.”

To do this, Murphy said, the program builds on the resiliency strengths that veterans learned from the military, such as self-discipline, adaptability, optimism, tact and leadership. It helps them develop tools from those strengths that can be used in the classroom and ultimately applied to other life transitions.

At the opening event, veterans were asked to reflect on their younger, pre-enlistment selves as a means of understanding the effects that military service has had on their life outlook and value systems.

Veteran Daniel Hodd, a junior in the Gabelli School of Business (GSB) and president of Fordham’s Veterans Group, noted one issue veterans face: As soldiers, they are taught to subrogate one’s own needs for the needs of the unit; in a university environment, however, individuality seems to be rewarded.

“It causes a conflict,” said the reservist who served two tours in Iraq.

Marine veteran Gary Kucinich, a GSB sophomore who served in Helsinki, Ethopia and Iraq, said it was difficult after nearly six years out of school to “get the hang” of being a student.

“We sit next to teens who have been going to school since they were five without skipping a beat,” he said. “We’ve seen the world and we’ve been living on our own. So it takes some time to get used to the academic and social side of things.”

Edge4Vets is expected to become a model program for other college campuses across the nation, now that 300,000 veterans returning to the United States annually from overseas will be eligible for the G.I. Bill.

Fordham enrolls approximately 235 veterans. For its outreach and support efforts, the University recently was ranked 55th nationally in the Military Times listing of “veteran-friendly” institutions.

“Each time that the United States has taken up arms, Fordham has been there for those returning veterans,” said Michael Gillan, Ph.D., co-chair of the FordhamVets Task Group. “We will do as much as we can to enable these men and women to have a smooth transition.”