Can you tell us about your experience working with the military and how that relates to a university setting?

I was a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman from 1969-1973. In addition to field medical training with the U.S. Marines, I was a surgical technician assisting surgeons in the operating theater. Since this was during some of the most aggressive fighting in Vietnam, I had the privilege of taking care of many young, wounded soldiers and sailors. Being only 20 years old myself in 1969, it was an opportunity to grow up fast. I joined the military as essentially an adolescent, and left much more mature than when I entered.

What do you notice to be the driving force behind veterans pursuing an education after service?

Military service is a wake-up call with regard to the importance of training and education. Many veterans recognize that they will need more education to reach their goals and take a no-nonsense, mature view of how that education is delivered, and what it can offer.

What are the three most important attributes or characteristics a veteran should consider when selecting a university?

By the time they get out of the service, most veterans are adult learners. Consequently, they should be looking for a college that understands the needs of adult learners, a school that is experienced with veteran students, and one that can support the adult veteran and their family.

How important is a university's sense of community to veterans when deciding on a college?

Military experience teaches service members to appreciate teamwork, a sense of purpose, and service. These are the sort of qualities they should look for in an institution of higher learning.

How does financial aid opportunities, such as the GI Bill, influence a veteran or service member's choice to pursue a higher education?

The GI Bill was an important inducement for me to return to college and medical school. Being from a working-class family, I needed both that and the availability of school loans to finance my medical education.

What advice would you give students who don't believe they can attend college as a veteran?

I have met very few military service members who could not excel in a college education. The maturity, sense of purpose, determination, and work ethic that one learns as a result of military service can be used to make any veteran successful in their educational pursuits. At American University of Antigua College of Medicine, we welcome veterans and encourage their pursuit of the dream of becoming successful physicians.

What advice would you give to a prospective veteran student who is in the first stages of their college search?

Most important is to recognize that there is assistance out there for our veterans. A simple web search will reveal, for example, that there are 8 states that provide free tuition for veterans, the VA has a great deal of information on veteran educational benefits. Find out if the colleges you are interested in have experience with veteran students. If they do, the transition will be much easier.

What are some of the ways family and friends can support student veterans during their time of transition?

Family and social support is crucial for our veterans, especially those returning from overseas assignments in areas of combat. Again, the VA is a great place to find out about how to support veterans reintegration into civilian life.

What are some struggles you see veterans face when transitioning into school? How are they able to overcome them?

When entering undergraduate institutions, veterans are faced with very different expectations than other students. Veterans are typically more mature, and often driven by clear plans for their education and career goals. It is sometimes difficult for them to integrate into the typical college social scene. Seeking out other veterans and mature students can often help in that integration.

What beneficial internal military programs do you see taken advantage of most often? How do they impact a veteran's education?

When I was in active duty, I took several “mail order” college courses which boosted my confidence in being able to handle college-level material. This resulted in earning credits that transferred to my college of choice. Nowadays, active-duty personnel can often take online courses and may take courses on college campuses when they are close enough to their duty station. I think this helps tremendously with building confidence and preparing them for full-time college work.

Dr. Robert Mallin

University Provost at American University of Antigua College of Medicine (AUA)

Dr. Robert Mallin is the university provost at American University of Antigua College of Medicine (AUA), a Caribbean medical school dedicated to creating future generations of physicians that serve the communities they represent. Dr. Mallin graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in 1981 and finished a residency in family medicine at the same institution in 1984. He was a tenured professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and a staff physician in hospitals throughout South Carolina. He has been the recipient of the Teacher of the Year Trident/MUSC Family Medicine Residency award, Golden Oyster Teaching Award MUSC/Trident Family Medicine Residency Program, Navy Achievement Medal for lifesaving medical services rendered to an injured sailor, and numerous Teacher of the Month awards.