Dog Tags to Ducks: 'They feel like it's a little harder to relate'

EUGENE,Ore. - Michael Tieman is a busy senior at the University of Oregon.

"I'm currently taking 4 classes and I'm enrolled in 14 credits," Tieman said.

But when Tieman is not attending class at the UO, he is more than likely training with the National Guard Headquarters Company 2-162 out of Springfield.

"In 2008 when the economy got kind of tough, the National Guard came up on my horizon and I pursued that," Tieman said. "We have warning orders to deploy to Afghanistan in 2014."

After Tieman finished training with the active army three years ago, Tieman decided to go back to college after he had dropped out 14 years earlier.

The 34 year-old college student said re-entering college at this stage of his life was not easy.

Tieman also has a 4-year-old daughter and a full-time job on top of his school work and National Guard responsibilities.

"Being in my 30s and in college, there's not a lot of people I can relate to all the time," Tieman said.

Tieman is not alone. Thousands of veterans across the country are returning back to school. Many of those veterans who are going back to college are returning from war.

At the University of Oregon, there's a new program geared toward making that transition a little easier for student veterans.

The program is called Dog Tags to Ducks.

UO alumni and Army veteran Kelley Hickman started the program after encountering some of the same struggles when she started at the university.

"They come in and they're non-traditional students," Hickman said. "They feel like it's a little harder to relate to the traditional college community. So it's nice to have somebody who's gone through this same transition."

The program currently has five veteran mentors who help new coming veterans through one-on-one mentoring. The mentors show the students the ropes of going to college. In addition, they share what educational resources are available for military personnel.

Tieman joined the mentoring program last year.

"I joined as a mentee and I had mentor," Tieman said. "He's been able to mentor me as far as parenting goes, life skills, and lots of school work."

Just one year later, Tieman is now serving as student coordinator for the program.

"Being involved and helping those students find resources here on campus and creating that bond with one another, I like knowing that I have a hand in that ," Tieman said.

Though Tieman will always be a dog tag, he said becoming a duck is something that he will never forget.

"Even after I graduate from the University of Oregon, this group here that I have helped administer will mean the most to me I think," Tieman said.

Dog Tags to Ducks is open to all student veterans at the University of Oregon.

The program is currently looking for student mentors for next semester. If you are interested in joining, you can e-mail them directly at