Student veteran deepens connections between military and civilian life on Brown’s campus

As a coordinator in the Office of Military-Affiliated Students, Brown junior and Marine Corps veteran Katie Yetter is leading initiatives to more fully integrate student veterans and ROTC participants into the campus community.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Katie Yetter was a first-year high school student when she initially imagined herself as a U.S. Marine.

Her sister’s friend — a pilot for the Corps — took her on a tour of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, even letting her sit in the pilot seat of his Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, an aircraft often used for special operations missions that combines the speed of an airplane with the vertical liftoff and landing capabilities of a helicopter.

“I sat in that seat and had this moment where I thought, ‘This is what I want to do, this is so fascinating, this is unlike any job I could ever imagine,’” said Yetter, who is now a junior cognitive neuroscience and sociology concentrator at Brown.

Three years later, Yetter joined the Marine Corps, where she served for five years as a safety equipment mechanic for the F-35B, a fighter aircraft. But Yetter had also long dreamed of a college education, and — after several years balancing her military service with college coursework — she decided to pursue her bachelor’s degree full-time.

“I knew I wanted to attend college full-time — both for the experience and to be able to explore different academic subjects, which was really hard for me to do taking one class at a time,” she said. With her military supervisor’s support and encouragement, Yetter applied to Brown.

Now that Yetter is at the University, she is working to deepen relationships between military and civilian spheres as a peer mentor, program coordinator and researcher. Her work comes at a critical time: Just over a year ago, Brown launched a plan to double the number of U.S. military veterans enrolled as undergraduates by 2024. In the first admissions cycle since the plan launched, the overall population of student veterans on campus increased by 24%, from 21 to 26 in total, with 15 student veterans in this new first-year class alone.

“Whether it’s through a movie or a news article, there are a lot of labels that have been placed on veterans, some positive, but also some negative,” she said. “I am doing everything I can to educate the whole community about what it means to have served and why it is so important to me and my fellow veterans.”

"Whether it’s through a movie or a news article, there are a lot of labels that have been placed on veterans, some positive, but also some negative. I am doing everything I can to educate the whole community about what it means to have served and why it is so important to me and my fellow veterans."

Katie Yetter Class of 2022 Member and Marine Corps Veteran
 
Katie Yetter, Class of 2022

In her role as program coordinator for Brown’s Office of Military-Affiliated Students, Yetter has spearheaded multiple initiatives dedicated to helping military-affiliated students — which include undergraduates enrolled in ROTC programs as well as student veterans like Yetter — more fully integrate into all aspects of campus life.

“The transition back to civilian life was a challenging one for me to navigate,” Yetter said. “It is my mission to help build as many support resources as I can for all student veterans attending Brown after me.”

In January, Yetter led the Brown launch of Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE), a national program in which military-affiliated students serve as trained peer advisers to student veterans and ROTC students at their institution. Yetter is one of six PAVE advisors at Brown, who together offer support to Brown’s full population of student veterans and ROTC students. She also coordinates the program alongside Kimberly Millette, director of the Office of Military-Affiliated Students.

“Peer support is so important for student veterans,” Yetter said. “A lot of transitioning veterans have an uncertainty about approaching a faculty member or administrator for help because, in the military, if you have a problem or a question, you go to a peer first — and that is exactly what this program helps them do.”   

Through her position with the office, Yetter also co-created Joint Ops Dialogue, a series dedicated to facilitating campus conversations about issues affecting students with military affiliations.

“Our goal is to foster conversations that really bridge the divide between military and civilian life that we know is so prevalent in today’s world, no matter where you are,” Yetter said.

Since it began last fall, the series has grown in scope to feature dialogues co-sponsored by civilian campus organizations. The next confirmed installment, which will be held in collaboration with Brown’s LGBTQ Center in April, will explore the stigmas encountered by students who identify with both the military-affiliated and LGBTQ student communities.

PAVE Program
Yetter co-coordinates PAVE, a peer support program for military-affiliated students.

 

Yetter’s military experience also informs her role as a research assistant for Mascha van 't Wout, an associate professor (research) of psychiatry and human behavior. In this position, Yetter is contributing to a study exploring whether combining mindfulness practice with tDCS— a pain-free therapy that uses electrical currents to stimulate areas of the brain — can help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders.

“I love being a part of this project as a veteran, because it gives the research a purpose for me beyond my interest in neuroscience,” Yetter said.

Her military experience will prove particularly useful in later stages of the project, when the team intends to recommend ways to develop and implement PTSD prevention to broad populations of first responders, including those serving in branches of the military, Yetter said. “As the only veteran on the project, I am able to personally relate to the research participants and provide insight into where, when and how this type of intervention could fit into the timeline for active duty personnel,” she said. “It’s a unique perspective that I can give.”

This ability to forge an academic path that both draws from — and expands upon — her intellectual interests and personal experiences is, for Yetter, one of the reasons that her choice to come to Brown has been such a rewarding one.

“I’ve met some amazing professors who have connected me with researchers at Brown doing things I might be interested in, or who have talked to me about different career paths,” she said. “I was uncertain what my range of options were until coming to Brown, taking classes and meeting the people I have. They really have helped me know that I am where I need to be.”