URI partners with Clemente Veterans Initiative to offer veterans unique access to higher education

Program funded by $99,000 grant aims to empower veterans transitioning from military to civilian life

Media Contact: Tracey Manni, 401-874-2145 |

KINGSTON, R.I. — (May 2, 2019) — With significant numbers of veterans completing military service and deployments overseas and returning to civilian life in the U.S., comes the challenge of providing the tools they may need to successfully make that transition.

The University of Rhode Island’s College of Arts and Sciences is a partner on a recently awarded grant to the Clemente Program in the Humanities to support a Providence-based model of the national Clemente Veterans Initiative, a program established to empower the nation’s veterans to further their education and careers, become effective advocates for themselves and their families, and to successfully engage in their communities. Other partners in the project include the Trinity Repertory Company and Operation Stand Down RI. Clemente courses are currently running in 30 U.S. cities.

Funded, for two years, with a $99,333 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Providence Clemente Veterans Initiative will accept applications from eligible veterans and provide coursework in the humanities free of charge. American history, literature, philosophy, art history, critical thinking and writing classes are offered to veterans meeting certain income guidelines. Up to 20 students will be enrolled in each of the spring and fall semesters. College credit is earned upon successfully completing classes, and child care will also be provided at no cost.

“Education can be transformative on so many levels,” said Jeannette E. Riley, dean of URI’s College of Arts and Sciences, who assisted in securing the grant and who will participate as a literature instructor in Providence after teaching at the New Bedford Clemente program for a decade. “Whether through earning college credits toward a degree or building one’s ability to engage and connect both with humanities-based content and their peers, this program can change lives.”

According to Riley, the Providence Clemente course will include a unique “Dialogues” curriculum, which will run for 12 weeks in the spring and fall. In the Dialogues classes, veteran and non-veteran students meet together as a means of stimulating discussions about the military, service, sacrifice and homecoming, from both perspectives. These classes are held at Trinity Rep., which has a history of working with veterans in Rhode Island, and its actors will participate in dramatic readings in each session.

Riley will work with Mark Santow, associate professor and chair of the Department of History at UMass-Dartmouth, who will serve as academic director of the PCVI Dialogues and teach the history classes. Santow has a long involvement in Clemente, dating back to 2005. Cheryl Foster, URI professor of philosophy, will teach the philosophy classes, with Kathleen Torrens, URI professor of communication studies, providing instruction in public speaking and Suzanne Scanlan, a lecturer at the Rhode Island School of Design, teaching art history.

“Clemente is founded on the premise that liberal education, through an active and rigorous engagement in literature, critical thinking, writing and other subjects, can make a meaningful difference to veterans as they more actively shape their own lives and those of their families and communities,” said Riley. “I am thrilled that the University of Rhode Island’s College of Arts and Sciences will be a part of this amazing program.”

Veterans interested in applying for the fall semester should contact Dr. Mark Santow at pvdclementevets@gmail.com.