U of A pilot project to give extra support to military veterans transitioning to civilian careers

·2 min read

Easing the often difficult transition for Canadian soldiers from military life to civilian careers will be the focus of a two-year pilot project at the University of Alberta.

The Veteran-Friendly Campus, announced on Thursday, will develop a specialized support system for veterans who are embarking on a whole new world of academic study.

The project, supported by a $714,000 grant from the Alberta government, will be developed by the U of A's Heroes in Mind, Advocacy and Research Consortium (HiMARC), a research initiative based out of the rehabilitation medicine faculty.

"I've seen the challenges veterans face as they enter society and find their path forward in a civilian world — a world that can be so jarringly difficult and disconnected from the realities they've known," said HiMARC director Suzette Brémault-Phillips, an occupational therapist and associate professor.

"I've seen challenges such as post-traumatic stress disorder and moral injury threaten to disrupt their lives, their families, their passions, their interests and their futures."

Veterans attending the U of A will be able to access specialized academic and mental health support, flexible enrolment, peer mentorship and career advice, said MLA Brad Rutherford, the government's liaison to the Canadian Armed Forces.

U of A President Bill Flanagan said the new program is a fitting tribute to the university's founder Henry Marshall Tory, who created an education program that became known as Khaki University, in which more than 50,000 Canadian soldiers took courses.

"Tory was deeply affected by the loss of students and instructors during the two world wars and he was passionate about supporting active soldiers and veterans," Flanagan said Thursday.

"He knew that many soldiers had given up their education in order to enlist in the wartime efforts and he knew that they needed the skills to rebuild society when they returned home."

Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said the Veteran-Friendly Campus pilot project is the first in Canada, and will be used as a blueprint to develop similar projects at other post-secondary institutions in Alberta.