VetIF Program

Program Details

COMPASS exists to tightly integrate research, education, and knowledge transfer. An important component of that work is the Veterans Innovation Fellowship (VetIF) program. VetIF is a first-of-its-kind program centered around providing total support and training to undergraduate veteran students in STEM disciplines within the center. The program was founded to bridge the most critical gaps which exist for former enlisted veterans in academic and research environments. We seek to ensure that our fellows will be positioned as next generation innovators that are well equipped for both basic and industrial research.

US veterans in the student population represent a locus of intersectionality in terms of barriers to academic achievement (ex. virtually all are non-traditional and first-generation students). The motivation for this program includes a desire to support prior enlisted US veteran students with 360°-mentorship, research experience (basic and applied), considerable financial support, expert training, and incorporation into superior professional networks.

The second motivation is one related to ensuring experiential diversity in research leadership – a trait that science and engineering research teams will need to solve problems of scarcity and over-usage. This can be summarized as “a need to do more with less” and is foundational to many emerging and existential problems that will need to be faced in the near future.

With the thought of experiential diversity in mind, it should be noted that the majority of our intellectual capital in the US is tied up in resource scarce communities. Individuals in these communities routinely do not have access to the educational and support resources needed to be successful in high tech fields. If we are to address the multiple emerging existential threats to our nation, it will be important that we capture as much of this untapped potential as possible to bolster the ranks of our scientists, engineers, manufacturers, and innovators. Prior-enlisted veterans provide a unique cross-section of this population, having already taken steps to develop themselves into the type of individuals capable of supporting large, important projects using specialized skills. They have also already proven their ability to integrate into teams of various sizes with various missions. Therefore, one of the fastest paths to bolstering our innovator ranks and diversify thought in research leadership is to establish a clear, well-supported path to a STEM career for our nation’s student veterans. 

Details. Our program offers up to 3 years of support with a generous stipend ($3300/month) and a health insurance allowance ($100/month). The fellowship has a research requirement of 12-18 hours of research per week while attending full time during the semester and requires a full-time commitment during the summer. Research is performed on campus with a COMPASS faculty member advisor during the year and an external (i.e., industry) partner or program during the summer. Fellowship recipients receive a multi-tiered array of professional and technical mentors to include bi-weekly 1-1 coaching, a day-to-day research mentor, monthly 1-1 PI coaching, and an applied research mentor. Recipients are also exposed to an extraordinary network of world-class researchers, manufacturers, and R&D centers in order to best position them to bring the skills they master in the program to the real world as innovators and leaders. Many of our fellows choose to select a second mentor from other Universities within the COMPASS network, thereby doubling their networking and mentorship opportunities while gaining even greater exposure to cross-disciplinary research.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award No. 2243104.

Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.