Since the 2022 Russian invasion, Ukraine’s veteran population has increased from roughly 500,000 to over 1.2 million and counting, yet the country’s ability to support its servicemembers has declined due to the war’s impact on the economy and infrastructure. Two…
Institute for Veterans and Military Families appoints directors
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University announces the appointment of four staff members who will direct operations and development, education programs, employment training and communications.
Ray Toenniessen of Syracuse has been named director of operations and development. Additionally, he serves as national managing director of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), a cutting-edge, service-disabled veteran entrepreneurship training program. The EBV was founded at SU’s Whitman School of Management in 2007, and is now operated under the auspices of the IVMF.
In his previous role as director of veteran outreach programs at Whitman, Toenniessen was instrumental in developing and executing additional educational training programs for veterans and military families. These programs—EBV-Families, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) and Operation Endure and Grow—educate and equip veterans and their families with the skills and tools necessary to successfully pursue business ownership. V-WISE and Operation Endure and Grow are offered in cooperation with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to complement outreach efforts of the Department of Defense. All three programs were founded at Whitman and are now offered under the auspices of the IVMF.
Toenniessen has extensive experience in program management, operations, administration, customer service and employee relations. A former Army officer, he has served at the platoon, company and battalion levels in numerous leadership and staff positions, including platoon leader, operations officer, convoy commander, contracting officer and detachment commander. In 2008, he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was responsible for the logistical activity for the entire central region of the country. Under Toenniessen’s leadership, his unit successfully redeployed to Iraq in 2009. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and political science from SU’s College of Arts and Sciences and is completing his MBA at the Saunders College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Tina M. Kapral of Manlius has been named director of education programs and training. She is responsible for helping to direct the design, development and delivery of the institute’s current portfolio of world-class educational and vocational programs for veterans, their families and community stakeholders. Kapral also helps the institute to seed additional educational programs that provide veterans and their families with the skills they need to be successful in work and life, and helps develop programs aimed at educating the academics, employers, NGOs and additional stakeholders who serve this community.
Previously program manager for V-WISE and Operation Endure and Grow—veteran entrepreneurship programs founded at Whitman—Kapral was responsible for the overall marketing and management of both programs. She holds a diverse background in program management, operations, administration, customer service, employee relations, sales and marketing in the retail and private sectors.
Kapral previously served as manager of program services for the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Central New York, where she granted the wishes of more than 130 children. There, she developed a volunteer training program and evaluation process to ensure continuity in delivering the foundation’s mission, and conducted marketing outreach to increase awareness. Prior to Make-A-Wish, Kapral worked as a marketing assistant at Clifton Gunderson LLP in Indianapolis, where she was recruited by the company to grow revenue, gain market share and increase brand recognition. As a corporate sales specialist with Syracuse-based Anaren Microwave Inc., Kapral was a liaison for customers, sales representatives and distribution centers. She oversaw the sales department through three mergers in New Jersey, Massachusetts and the Netherlands, and brought the sales department in Suzhou, China, online. In Anaren’s sales department, she developed and implemented training programs for internal personnel, created operations manuals and developed internal controls to achieve ISO 9001 certification.
Kapral holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial labor relations and human resources management from Le Moyne College.
Mirza Tihic of Syracuse has been named director of employment training programs. He is responsible for driving the creation of programs aimed at employment and vocational training, on behalf of the institute, to act as a bridge between veterans, military families and community stakeholders/industry/government/NGOs. In this capacity, he works on initiatives that provide resources and support services to veterans and their families, in order to identify and pursue employment opportunities, leverage skills and experiences gained in military service and build upon new skills and knowledge gained post-service. He also develops strategies to recruit, assimilate, retain and advance veterans and military families in employment.
Tihic previously served as a program manager for the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Whitman, a position he held from 2007-11. In this role, Tihic supported the EBV, inclusive entrepreneurship through the Start-Up NY and SBA PRIME programs, the Syracuse Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp, the Panasci Business Plan Competition, the South Side Entrepreneurship Connect Project and the D’Aniello Entrepreneurial Internship Program. In addition, he was an instructor in Whitman’s entrepreneurial consulting class and business plan laboratory.
From 2002-07, Tihic operated a Syracuse-based small business, Tihic Construction LLC, a residential remodeling company. His previous experience includes projects with the Carrier Corp. in the pricing strategy department, and serving as an associate business manager for Daymon Worldwide. In 2009, he co-founded Syracuse’s North Side Learning Center, a family literacy center that helps immigrants and destitute individuals living in that area of the city.
Originally from Bosnia, Tihic holds an MBA from Whitman, a master’s degree in neuroscience from SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at SU’s School of Education, concentrating his research and efforts on inclusive entrepreneurship within the disability studies program in the Department of Cultural Foundations of Education.
Jaime Winne Alvarez of East Syracuse has been appointed director of media relations and communications. A dual report, Alvarez also serves as communications manager for the Whitman School, a position she has held since May.
Alvarez works with institute leadership to position the IVMF with the media in all its forms, in order to broaden public awareness and understanding of its vision and mission, including its innovative approach to leveraging resources in higher education to better serve veterans and military families. She liaisons with the media to promote the IVMF and its community of experts, develops and produces internal and external communications pieces, implements the media relations strategy, collaborates with staff on content and design of the website, helps manage social media platforms and works in partnership with SU and external constituents in the public affairs/communications function, including federal/state/local partners, NGOs, educational institutions and others who have a stake in the institute’s mission and values.
Alvarez previously worked in SU News Services, where she coordinated media campaigns and communications projects to increase the University’s visibility in media outlets. She provided communications support for a wide variety of campus initiatives, programs and clients, including SU’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program. She was also editor of Orange CNY, an e-newsletter distributed to local alumni, donors and friends. In addition, Alvarez served as interim director of communications for the fifth annual Mirror Awards competition, held by SU’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, honoring excellence in media industry reporting. She also served as a preliminary judge.
Prior to joining SU, Alvarez was a media relations officer in Georgetown University’s Office of Communications, where she managed communications for Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Georgetown College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She has held positions in arts marketing and communications at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and locally at Syracuse Stage/SU Drama.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the Newhouse School.