Published: Nov. 9, 2017 By

While serving our nation, the men and women in the military often form a sense of camaraderie with their peers. For CU Boulder student and veteran Dakota Brummel, maintaining that sense of camaraderie when transitioning into college was important.

Student veterans shaking hands

Dakota Brummel (left) shakes hands with a fellow student-veteran on campus.

When Brummel began his college life at CU Boulder, he saw an opportunity to enhance the transition experience. He took a job with AmeriCorps, which works closely with CU Boulder’s Office of Veteran Services. This collaboration allowed him to help initiate a program for incoming veteran students. The Veteran Ambassador Program helps incoming veteran students find community and establish camaraderie with second-, third- and fourth-year peers who have similar backgrounds and life experiences.

CU Boulder welcomes about 400 veteran students each year, and this program is a resource for all interested incoming veterans.

“The goal is to foster community,” says Kristina Spaeth, the academic advisor in the Office of Veteran Services, who oversees the program. “Often, for incoming students, their best way to get connected and figure out what they need to do in college is to talk with other students who have been in their situation—someone who has been in their shoes and can give them insight on the academic, living and social aspects of college.”  

The ambassador program began last spring semester and was officially launched this fall. Brummel, who now leads the program, found this initiative fulfilling for everyone involved.

“I immediately knew the ambassador program was something I wanted to do because my first semester was tough. I was kind of lost, and a lot of other students from the military told me the same thing about their transition. I realized that’s probably going to continue to happen to incoming veteran students unless someone steps in and helps out.”

As a third-year student double majoring in psychology and Chinese, Brummel realized finding community could help veterans feel at home. Originally from the Midwest, Brummel has already lived around the world while serving in the Marine Corps: Cambodia, Venezuela and Afghanistan. With his new community at CU Boulder, he can officially call Colorado home, at least for now.

The program works by matching CU Boulder veteran students with incoming veteran students. Interested students apply to the program and declare their branch in the military, their major, their interests and marital status, so the ambassador team can match students with similar lifestyles, experiences and interests. Not only does the program provide students with campus context—how to get involved, where to go for resources and how to navigate the campus—but it also provides authentic peer-to-peer interaction.

“All of the new students this semester are excited,” Brummel says. “I think most of them are glad I reached out and that they have someone to talk to. And that’s basically what I wanted when I was going through my first semester. So just hearing their excitement makes me feel like the program has an impact.”

Other resources for our veteran students include: a two-week, academic intensive Summer Bridge Program; scholarship opportunities; academic counseling; and the CU Boulder Student Veterans Association chapter. For more information about these resources, please visit the Office of Veteran Services website