Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE): Implementing a sustainable peer support program for student veterans on college campuses


  • Michelle Kees University of Michigan
  • Brittany Risk University of Michigan
  • Chrysta Meadowbrooke University of Michigan
  • Timothy Nellett University of Michigan
  • Jane Spinner University of Michigan



Peer support, military transition, peer program development, Post 9-11 GI Bill


Student veterans have been attending college in greater numbers since the passing of the Post/9-11 GI Bill. Although similar to other nontraditional students, student veterans face unique transition challenges that can impact their pursuit of higher education. Many student veterans could benefit from dedicated programs to help them succeed in college, which in turn would enable them to secure employment in the civilian world. Facilitating the success of student veterans also makes wise use of the financial and institutional resources invested in their education. Peer support programs can help by providing an established community of other student veterans who can normalize transition experiences, offer social support, reduce stigma associated with help-seeking, and connect to useful services on and off campus. This paper describes the iterative development of a nationwide peer support program for student veterans, Peer Advisors for Education (PAVE), which uses trained peers to provide outreach, support, and linkage to resources to assist student veterans. Through a hybrid technology platform for training and program management, PAVE has been delivered on 40 college campuses nationwide and is well-positioned for larger scale national rollout.  

Author Biographies

Michelle Kees, University of Michigan

Michelle Kees, PhD is an Associate Professor in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, has dual Clinical and Research Without Compensation appointments at the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and is a lead investigator with Military Support Programs and Networks (M-SPAN). Dr. Kees is the Principal Investigator for PAVE (Peer Advisors for Veteran Education). She is also the Principal Investigator of HomeFront Strong, a resiliency intervention for military spouses and children.

Brittany Risk, University of Michigan

Brittany Risk, LMSW is the Program Manager for PAVE. She coordinates and oversees all aspects of the implementation of the PAVE Program. Prior to her work with M-SPAN, Ms. Risk was a project manager at the Department of Veterans Affairs on grants that focused on veteran mental health, substance abuse, and suicide.

Chrysta Meadowbrooke, University of Michigan

Chrysta Meadowbrooke, MS is the Research Specialist for M-SPAN, working on research and evaluation for PAVE and other military and veteran-focused programs. She has several years of experience on community-based health and clinical projects, performing both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis.

Timothy Nellett, University of Michigan

Timothy Nellett, BA is the Program Coordinator for PAVE. He oversees the day-to-day operations of the PAVE Program, such as onboarding and supporting current partner campus. Mr. Nellett served in the United State Marine Corps for four years, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion 6 Marine Regiment in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. 

Jane Spinner, University of Michigan

Jane Spinner, MSW, MBA is Project Officer for Strategic Initiatives at the University of Michigan Depression Center and Department of Psychiatry. Ms. Spinner oversees the design, development, and implementation of major projects and initiatives that address the mental health needs of special populations, including the portfolio of military and veteran-focused programs at M-SPAN. 


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