Eric Watson ’91 wasn’t envisioning himself as a U.S. Marine Corps aviator when he first came to Syracuse University. The Washington D.C., native originally intended on studying computer science, but as is the case with many college students, Watson realized…
Student Veterans Visit the Big Apple to Connect With Industry Leaders
Student veterans recently traveled to New York City on a four-day trip sponsored by the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA). The 13 students weren’t going to make the standard tourist rounds the city is known for though. They were stepping through the doors of some of the most renowned corporations to gain a better understanding of the corporate world and network with representatives they may find themselves working alongside in the future.
The career immersion trip aims to offer this opportunity to military-connected students at least once a semester, except for during the pandemic. Transportation and lodging are provided at no cost to the students, including airfare for those who are taking classes remotely with the College of Professional Studies online programs.
“The goal of the trip is to expose student veterans to the geographic area, make valuable connections with industry leaders and learn about available internship or job opportunities,” says Jennifer Pluta, director of Veteran Career Services for the OVMA. “The students gain insight into how their majors and interests connect to different fields and industries, and for some, it’s their first time visiting the city.”
Fiserv, Bloomberg and LinkedIn were among the corporations that hosted the students this semester, inviting them in for panel discussions, tours and showcasing their veteran hiring initiatives. The student veterans receive a behind-the-scenes view of the inner workings and career pathways within the organizations during the visit, and in some cases treated to panel discussions with current employees at the company who are veterans themselves.
Pluta, who aside from her position at the University, is also a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve and serves as a senior command career counselor, leverages the vast University alumni network to secure lucrative opportunities for the University’s student veterans. In return, those corporations are gaining access to a talented pool of veterans who are bringing invaluable experience to the workplace after departing campus with their degrees in hand.
“I’ve been hoping to land a career in NYC since I started school here in 2019,” says Ryan Yon ’23, who is studying data analytics and policy studies in the School of Information Studies and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. “It was nice being able to see the city for the first time with other student veterans. I got to make some real connections with employers and alumni. I also landed some interviews with the companies I was most interested in.”
Yon, a U.S. Army veteran, was also able to visit the University’s Joseph I. Lubin House for the Post-Traditional Alumni and Student Reception. He and the other student veterans were able to meet members of the city’s Orange alumni network. As part of the reception, Yon and his fellow student veterans heard from John Wallace ’96 of the New York Knicks as he discussed his journey from Syracuse to pro basketball and the influence of the Orange network had on his career success.
Another student veteran on the trip, Jennifer Aquino ’23, had originally gone so she could speak to other student veterans about the opportunities they have available to them at the University. As a senior studying linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences,, she didn’t initially think there would be a lot of opportunities for her at the companies they were visiting.
“I was amazed, I thought these companies would be more for the students with other majors, not mine,” says Aquino, who also served as a linguist in the U.S. Navy for 14 years. “They made me feel welcome, they showed that there were positions for someone like me at their company.”
The OVMA is able to sponsor the career immersion trips thanks to the generosity of donors to the Veteran Legacy Fund, allowing them to provide the opportunities like this at no-cost for student veterans. New York City isn’t the only location the students are exposed to on these trips, the OVMA has provided similar opportunities in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, California. Next semester, in the spring of 2023, the OVMA will take student veterans to Atlanta, Georgia, home to such companies as The Home Depot, UPS and The Coca-Cola Company, among many others.
Student veterans who are interested in taking advantage of the career immersion trip to Atlanta are encouraged to apply early, as the trips are typically reserved for a selected number of students. Announcements about the application period and requirements will go out through e-mail, social media and the OVMA’s website.