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Veterans with disabilities fulfill small business ownership dreams at Whitman
Veterans with disabilities fulfill small business ownership dreams at WhitmanAugust 13, 2007Amy Schmitzaemehrin@syr.edu
Improvements in body armor and other technological advances have resulted in an unprecedented number of American soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan surviving major injuries but returning home disabled. In fact, the number of American soldiers injured, as of July 2007, has exceeded 27,000.
Unfortunately, for the veteran returning from war with a disability, the traditional means to “climb the economic ladder” are often closed as a result of his or her disability. This individual also faces policy and attitudinal barriers affecting employment opportunities. One in five American soldiers returning stateside from Iraq and Afghanistan comes from a town with less than 5,000 inhabitants. Therefore, roadblocks to economic productivity for a veteran with disabilities affect not only the soldier, but the soldier’s community as well. And notably, many of these veterans are young adults, in their early to mid-20s.
On Aug. 11, the Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises in the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University launched the second phase, onsite training, of its inaugural “Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities” (EBV), a cutting-edge, experiential training program in entrepreneurship and small business management for veterans identified as disabled resulting from their service in Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Entrepreneurship is a means through which veterans with disabilities can engage the economic engine of their community,” says Mike Haynie, assistant professor of entrepreneurship in the Whitman School and a former major in the U.S. Air Force.
“Statistics show that people with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to be self-employed as the general population. With this unique program, veterans with disabilities will gain the necessary training and education to develop the skills for small business creation.”
EBV focuses on practical training in the tools of new venture creation and growth, reflecting issues unique to disability and public benefits programs. The program is training veterans with disabilities such as these participants:
- Rusten May, age 23, from Theriot, La., was an Army sniper in Iraq and won a bronze star for valor, but now struggles with both physical and mental scars from his service. While recovering from shrapnel wounds, May has also enrolled at a college in Louisiana to pursue his bachelor’s degree.
Through experiential workshops and lessons from world-class entrepreneurship faculty, these veterans and other EBV participants are learning how to write business plans, raise capital and attract customers, as well as determine what type of marketing is most effective for their business model, whether or not they need to hire employees, and how to take their business venture to the next level.
The program — including travel, lodging and meals — is free to all participating veterans through the generous private giving of individuals and corporations. The first phase of the EBV began July 17 and prepared the participants for the onsite training through online learning modules and discussion groups.
On Aug. 16, the EBV participants will be treated to a free concert by up-and-coming country music star Stephen Cochran, who is also a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A keynote address will be given on Aug. 18 by Louis Giuliano, former chairman, president and CEO of ITT. A formal graduation will be held on Aug. 19.
“Syracuse University is a natural place to hold a program like EBV,” says Melvin T. Stith, dean of the Whitman School and a former captain in the U.S. Army. “SU has a long history of supporting veterans through education, beginning in 1946 with our former chancellor who opened the doors for veterans returning from World War II. The Whitman School is honored to be able to host such a program in 2007, especially because we recognize that the program is filling a great need among veterans with disabilities who are eager to participate in their local economies, and in the national economy, and who don’t always have doors open to them.”
The Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises in the Whitman School is ranked among the top entrepreneurship programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Entrepreneurship Magazine and The Princeton Review. EBV is offered in collaboration with Syracuse University’s Burton Blatt Institute, which seeks to advance the civic, economic and social participation of persons with disabilities.
To set up interviews, contact Amy Mehringer, Whitman School communications manager, at (315) 443-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jaime Winne Alvarez, Syracuse University news manager, at (315) 443-3784 or email@example.com.