“The transition from military life back into the civilian world is a lot more difficult than most people realize,” said Joe Robinson, Army veteran and alum of Odyssey’s very first graduating class. “Odyssey is life changing in so many different ways. The opportunity to have a program that plants a seed for anyone from any walk of life to have a chance to pursue higher education is such a blessing.”
Twenty years after Odyssey was founded to help those in underserved communities find a voice and achieve their dreams of higher education, the Odyssey Project is expanding its reach with a new venture — Odyssey Beyond Wars (OBW) — focused on serving military veterans as well as members of the National Guard and Reserves.
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“The veterans I’ve taught always say the thing they miss most about the military is the camaraderie,” said Erin Celello, Odyssey literacy instructor. “I’m excited that Odyssey is going to serve this often-unseen population, giving veterans not only access to higher education, but a chance to connect and learn together.” It’s an audience Celello knows well: She developed a groundbreaking program during her tenure at UW–Whitewater that helped student veterans connect with one another and find their voices through studying literature that spoke to their lived experience.
Like the core Odyssey course, Odyssey Beyond Wars is a free, two-semester, 6-credit program that meets one night per week for the academic year (September–May). Students engage in lively discussions about classic literature (Sophocles’ Ajax and Shakespeare’s Henry V) to modern works (Tim O’Brien, Karl Marlantes, Phil Klay, and Brian Turner, among others). They will also contribute their own voices through academic and creative writing, developing critical thinking skills and a sense of empowerment, community, and belonging in the process.
“All of the resources that Odyssey provides would definitely benefit any veteran, whether they are recently discharged and trying to transition back into civilian life, or they exited the military years ago and never had the opportunity to pursue higher education,” Robinson said. “The men and women of the Armed Forces sacrifice their personal life, and their families sacrifice a lot as well. Wives and children have to go months — and sometimes years — without seeing the service member, not to mention most military children don’t attend the same school for more than a few years. The way Odyssey is structured, it is a resource for the entire family, so that’s another benefit for the veteran. I can go on and on about how many different ways I think the Odyssey program will be a wonderful asset to Veterans.”
Consider helping more veterans like Joe achieve their dreams through Odyssey.