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"Chemistry Platoon" teaches veterans more than just chemistry at U of I

Scott Daly answers students' questions during a chemistry platoon meeting.

Veterans often have trouble reintegrating into civilian life or even just getting a different job. Going to college and getting used to a completely new lifestyle is often hard especially for younger veterans ahead of their college peers. That's why Scott Daly, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Iowa created the "Chemistry Platoon".

"Not having some of the support network that I needed in terms of just trying to help me learn how to be a student again, reflecting on those personal experiences gave me the idea," Daly said.

Daly is an Army veteran himself. He was a tank crewman and was on active duty for three years. Not knowing what he wanted to do and craving the guidance and help to determine what route to take and how to improve academically led him to his project of helping former military members of all creeds at the University of Iowa. His small study group now meets every Tuesday during the semester to give veteran students more guidance and help them learn in an environment where they can be with people with similar experiences while preparing them for the different chemistry programs across campus.

"One of the important things that the Chemistry Platoon does is to help identify other veterans that have also shared some of those similar experiences and to built a strong peer support network," Daly said "Not only to help them in chemistry but also help them to become better students."

The biggest difference between non-veteran students and veterans is often the age gap. Military members come to Iowa with a completely different skill set than those attending college straight out of high school. For Zachary Graham, who is also an Army veteran it has sometimes been tough. He is preparing for dental school after being deployed for four years.

"There is that maturity gap, there is the experience gap so having people that you can have common similarities with and also having people who have taken the courses before is extremely beneficial," Graham said. "You do get that peer to peer interaction that faculty to student interaction, it helps you adjust to the lifestyle."

The program was recently recognized by the National Science Foundation which could mean the potential for more federal funding. The hope is to attract more veterans to STEM fields and give them an easy start. For Daly, the Tuesday meetings are personal. They give him a chance to pass on the guidance that he never got and help veterans reach their goals.

"I see myself in my students," Daly said. "The struggles they are going through are the struggles I went through. It's probably the most rewarding thing I have done here at the University of Iowa."

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