Since its signing in 1944, the GI Bill has provided educational benefits to the country’s veterans and offered low-cost home loans, unemployment benefits and health care benefits. At Syracuse University, Chancellor William Tolley welcomed servicemen and women with open doors,…
Syracuse University Shows Strong Presence at Student Veteran National Conference
Recently, a group of Syracuse University students, composed of 17 student veterans, two ROTC cadets, one military spouse and two students from the University Student Association, attended the Student Veterans of America (SVA) National Conference in Orlando, Florida.
The student group was joined by Syracuse leaders Mike Haynie, vice chancellor and Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) founder and executive director; Ron Novack, executive director of the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA), Jennifer Pluta G’15, assistant director of veteran career services for OVMA; Misty Stutsman, IVMF director of entrepreneurship and small business; and Rosalinda Maury, IVMF director of applied research.
Haynie presented the conference keynote while Novack, Pluta, Stutsman and Maury presented on several panels examining the student veteran landscape and challenges.
Haynie’s keynote discussed how institutes of higher education and veterans mutually benefit when veterans enroll post-service.
“Higher education combined with a veteran’s military experiences and skills, accelerates their potential and ultimately benefits our nation,” said Haynie. “They also change our institutions. They come to campus with global experiences, broad diversity and a commitment to service. In classrooms, on athletic fields and in student organizations they prove to be adept at team building, resilient, resourceful and entrepreneurial. Further, they are mature beyond their years, honest to a fault, fiercely loyal to the institution and exercise dynamic leadership abilities that had been tested and proven under the most real world conditions imaginable. They make us better, and in turn we help them change the world.”
Every year, SVA’s National Conference brings more than 2,000 student veterans, advocates, thought-leaders, stakeholders and supporters in higher education together for the field’s largest convening. This year’s conference was held at the Coronado Springs Resort, Walt Disney World. The three-day conference consisted of breakout sessions geared toward student veteran success and post-graduation opportunities.
As part of an ongoing effort to bridge the gap between traditional students and student veterans, two non-veteran students attended this year’s event.
“Attending the SVA conference really opened my eyes to the experience and value that student veterans bring to campus communities,” says Syracuse Student Association member Jenniviv Bansah ’21. “I am proud to be part of a group of inspired students who are dedicated to changing the stigmatized narrative of veterans.”
Pluta presented two sessions—one on the value and logistics of veteran employee resource groups and a second that discussed takeaways from her veteran career exploration course. Pluta piloted the one-day, one-credit course for student veterans to explore career development opportunities and workshops at various stages of career readiness during the fall 2018 semester at Syracuse.
Stutsman presented with Vivian Greentree, senior vice president and head of global corporate citizenship at First Data, and Leonard Spencer, senior manager supplier diversity for the Walt Disney Company, on a panel discussing entrepreneurship pathways and resources for veterans.
Maury also conducted two presentations: a session with Chris Cate, from SVA, on the valuable contributions student veterans provide to academic institutions and a presentation with Corri Zoli, director of research at Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, and Daniel Fay, of Florida State University, outlining social science research and data-driven analyses to debunk myths about today’s all-volunteer force.
During the conference, Syracuse’s OVMA office facilitated a panel discussion with representatives of the state of Tennessee. This unique partnership between Syracuse University, which strives to be the “best place for veterans,” and the state of Tennessee, which strives to be the “best state for veterans,” highlighted the importance of collaboration in serving military-connected student populations.
The panel offered insight on creating connections with advisors and faculty, bridging the student-academic affairs divide, programs with community colleges and technical schools, working within local and state government, and businesses. Novack and Maury were joined on the panel by Hilary Miller, center director for the Veterans and Military Family Center at Middle Tennessee State University, and Mitch Curry, veterans education coordinator for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
“Events like the National Conference continue to empower and inform both our student veterans and our staff that remain dedicated to serving the veteran and military-connected community at Syracuse,” says Novack. “We are honored to attend and influence the sessions. The insight and knowledge we brought back to campus from the conference enriches the student experience at Syracuse University as we continue our work to be the best place for veterans, their families and military-connected students.”
Syracuse students attended the conference as a result of the generous support of donors to the Veterans Legacy Fund (VLF). Donations to the fund benefit students through scholarships, special programming, and projects like the construction of the National Veterans Resource Center, a first-of-its-kind multi-use facility dedicated to advancing academic research, programming and community-connected innovation serving the social, economic and wellness concerns of the nation’s veterans and families. The NVRC is scheduled open in 2020.