When Michael Skarda started the journey of becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force, there were no indications that his military career was beginning amidst two decades of conflict. In 2002, Skarda joined the Air Force’s Reserve Officer…
Leaders From Higher Education and Government Convene at Syracuse University on Future of America’s Volunteer Military
Demonstrating its longstanding commitment to veteran and military communities across the nation and making good on its promise to be the Best Place for Veterans, Syracuse University will co-host a first-of-its-kind summit addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing veterans and the long-term sustainability of an all-volunteer armed services.
Hosted collaboratively by Syracuse and the University of Tennessee, the summit is being held during the 50th anniversary of the end of the military draft and the birth of America’s all-volunteer force—and at a time when both the military and higher education face significant challenges, including recruitment and enrollment, respectively.
The summit, titled “The All-Volunteer Force at 50: Higher Education and America’s Volunteer Military,” will be held Wednesday, April 19, and Thursday, April 20, at the National Veterans Resource Center (NVRC) at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building, home to the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and the Office of Veterans and Military Affairs (OVMA).
The two universities, both leaders on issues impacting military-connected students, will welcome more than two dozen collegiate presidents and chancellors, as well as senior government leaders and private sector partners, to campus to discuss how institutions of higher education and government can enhance collaboration and introduce innovative partnerships positioned to bolster access to in-service and post-service educational opportunities for military-connected learners.
“Syracuse University’s commitment to veterans, military-connected students and their families has long been woven into the fabric of this institution,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “That commitment dates back as far as World War I in the early years of ROTC programs, and continued in 1944 when former Chancellor William Tolley assisted with drafting the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, now known as the G.I. Bill, This summit as an extension of this commitment, and an opportunity to work with our peer institutions to find solutions to the challenges ahead. Our goal must always be to create and empower and ensure opportunities for the military community.”
Highlights of the summit will be keynote addresses delivered by several renowned military and military-connected leaders, including award-winning journalist, director and best-selling author Sebastian Junger and senior officials from the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.
The summit will also offer facilitated breakout discussions around such themes as building a continuum of human capital, empowering military-connected populations in higher education, and the workforce of the future.
Thursday’s session will begin with a fireside chat, “All-Volunteer Force at 50: Past, Present and Future,” featuring Sean O’Keefe, University Professor and Phanstiel Chair in Leadership in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and Bernard D. Rostker G’66, G’70, senior fellow with the RAND Corporation. Additional discussion topics include the implications of the impending ‘demographic cliff’ on both the volunteer military and higher education and also a conversation focused on the role of education in preparing individuals and communities for the workforce of the future.
The April 19-20 convening will set the conditions for actionable next steps and subsequent engagement between higher education and the federal government, positioned to advance educational opportunities for veterans and military-connected students.
“We are at a moment in our nation’s history when both colleges and universities, as well as the American’s volunteer military force, shared challenges,” says Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation J. Michael Haynie, founder and executive director of the IVMF, who wrote on this topic in a recent Inside Higher Ed op-ed. “It is imperative to have thoughtful dialogue about what’s at stake so that we can begin to identify real solutions that will collectively benefit the next generation of Americans motivated to both learn and serve; institutions of higher learning; and the safety and security of our nation.”
Under Chancellor Syverud, veteran and military-connected enrollment has increased at Syracuse University over 500% since 2014. The IVMF, which has served over 192,000 service members, veterans and military family members worldwide since its founding in 2011, includes a research and analytics team, a trusted national resource working to advance the policy and practice of supporting veterans and their families.
Additionally, the University’s OVMA is home to one of the longest-running Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs in the nation, the Office of Veteran Success and other support programs for veterans.
About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private research university that advances knowledge across disciplines to drive breakthrough discoveries and breakout leadership. Our collection of 13 schools and colleges with over 200 customizable majors close the gap between education and action, so students can take on the world. In and beyond the classroom, we connect people, perspectives and practices to solve interconnected challenges with interdisciplinary approaches. Together, we’re a powerful community that moves ideas, individuals and impact beyond what’s possible.