Cornell Provost Michael Kotlikoff wrote a lengthy column on Tuesday to advocate for an often-undiscussed minority group at Cornell: veterans.
“Far too few veterans are enrolled in our elite undergraduate institutions,” Kotlikoff wrote in The Hechinger Report, an online media outlet focused on education.
Fifty-seven veteran students are currently enrolled at Cornell, and more than 400 veterans work or study under the University, according to Cornell admissions. In the column, Kotlikoff stated a goal of enrolling 100 veteran students by 2020, an “achievable” target that he set in 2015 when there were less than 10 veteran undergraduates.
Cornell’s undergraduate veteran enrollment rate — 0.28 percent — is the third-highest in the Ivy League, according to data aggregated by the Ivy League Veterans Council. However, the provost said that students who enlist in high school might not consider applying to prestigious universities.
“With a daughter serving as a junior officer in the U.S. Navy, I am keenly aware of the challenges of military life,” Kotlikoff wrote.
Kotlikoff warned against a stereotype of college campuses as “elitist bastions of ‘group think,’” and said that reaching out to all marginalized groups was one way to reverse that characterization.
The provost advocated for five “straightforward” steps to better reach out to prospective veteran students, including the creation of “support structures” for these students, sensitivity to veterans’ backgrounds, and pre-enrollment programs to prepare veterans for college life. He also encouraged enhanced on-campus programming for veterans and support of student veteran groups.
Kotlikoff met with representatives of Cornell Undergraduate Veterans Association multiple times, a student group on campus that serves as “veterans’ liaison to Cornell, advocating for their rights and recognition,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
The provost’s letter was “brilliant,” according to Chris Denkovic ’20, vice president of CUVA, saying it painted the “harsh reality that veterans are underrepresented in highly selective institutions.”
The goal of 100 students was set by Kotlikoff, Denkovic said. “It was completely his decision.”
CUVA hosts events to discuss the issues facing veteran students, Denkovic said, including an event next week with the head of Service to School, a non-profit organization that provides application counseling to veterans.
“Veterans come in with a lot of very unique experiences and we all have very unique perspectives on just life in general,” Denkovic said. Cornell “benefit[s] from the diversity of the different backgrounds and I think that ours is definitely one of them.”
The University also partners with Vetlink, a non-profit service that aims to help military veterans who are transitioning to civilian life get admission at prestigious universities. Vetlink also partners with Harvard University, Yale University and Princeton University from the Ivy League.