Hometown Hero: Mass Communications 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm

Mass Communications 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and she graduated from basic training at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois in April 2009. After completing basic training, Kathryn reported to the Defense  Information School, at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, where she became a Mass Communications Specialist and learned “how to tell the Navy’s story.”

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Hometown Hero: U.S. Army Specialist Myles Shoemaker

United States Army Specialist Myles Shoemaker was honored as the Hometown Hero during Saturday’s Syracuse Football game vs. Florida State.

Specialist Shoemaker hails from Great Mills, Maryland. He enlisted in the United States Army in September 2015 as an 11-Bravo, Infantryman, and attended one-unit training at Fort Benning Georgia.

Specialist Shoemaker reported for duty at Fort Drum, New York in 2016, where he was assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, of the 10th Mountain Division.

In 2017, Specialist Shoemaker deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel. While in Afghanistan, he engaged in combat operations against an enemy of the United States and was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device for valor, the Army Commendation Medal with “C” device, and the Combat Infantrymen’s Badge.

Specialist Shoemaker’s proudest military moment is returning home from a successful combat deployment, knowing that he has fulfilled a life-long goal of serving his country in combat.

Hometown Hero: U.S. Army Veteran, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Robin Evans

Syracuse University student veteran  Robin Evans was honored as “Hometown Hero” during Saturday’s SU Football vs. Wagner game.

United States Army Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Robin Evans hails from Wichita, Kansas. She enlisted in the United States Army in 1995 and served as a Chaplain’s Assistant for four years. Robin separated from the Army and attended the University of Missouri – Kansas City. There, she received her commission in 2001 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Ordnance Corps.

Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Evans served in many key operational and tactical assignments throughout her career to include the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea, the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and the Sustainment Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia.

Robin has deployed twice to Operation Iraqi Freedom and once to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She has been awarded the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star, and both the Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign medals for her wartime service.

In June 2018, Robin was selected as a “Pat Tillman Scholar,” where she is one of 60 “Tillman Scholars” selected nationally for 2018. Today, Robin is a first year law student at Syracuse University’s College of Law.


Syracuse’s Growing Veteran and Military-Connected Population Welcomed Back to Campus

Last Wednesday (Aug. 22), Syracuse University welcomed new student veterans to campus at the annual New Student Veteran Welcome Orientation and Resource Fair. The event provides student veterans, military-connected students and their families the opportunity to connect with other students, learn about campus resources, and meet the dedicated veteran and military-connected support staff.

Staff and vet students conversing at the orientation session

Photo courtesy of: Rob Rivera/NPPA

This fall’s 52 new undergraduate student veterans, enrolled on campus, full time, join more than 1,000 other veteran and military-connected students at the graduate and undergraduate levels. The University’s veteran and military-connected enrollment on campus has grown 60 percent since Chancellor Kent Syverud assumed his leadership position in January 2014 and identified veteran service among his strategic initiatives.

“To grow 60 percent in just four years is truly a testament to the hard work being done around this campus to make Syracuse University the best place for veterans and for our military-connected population,” says Ron Novack, executive director of the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs at Syracuse University (OVMA).

The significant increase in veteran and military-connected enrollment comes as a result of the dedicated work of the OVMA and the Office of Veteran Success (OVS) and the support of the University’s schools and colleges. Such offices have rolled out an impressive number of initiatives aimed at improving the military-connected student experience on campus, including:

  • unlimited participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program allowing Post 9/11 GI Bill students to receive additional funding to cover required tuition and fees;
  • veteran-dedicated staff across campus;
  • expanded capability of the OVS;
  • increased number of VA school certifying officials;
  • dedicated veteran admission advisors;
  • dedicated veteran career services advising;
  • student veteran career immersion trips to New York City and Washington, D.C.;
  • Vet Success on Campus Program;
  • early registration benefits;
  • Orange Door Liaison program;
  • Peer Advisors for Veteran Education Program;
  • Student Veteran Organization;
  • The Wohl Family Veterans Legal Clinic; and
  • increased Air Force and Army ROTC enrollment.

Faculty member speaking with vet studentConsistently ranked among the top 10 best universities for veterans, SU is also one of only 15 Pat Tillman Foundation University Partners. In its second year as a partner institution, the University was selected for its innovative veteran services and strong culture of support for military veterans and spouses, and its rigorous academic programs.

The University is furthering its commitment to the veteran and military-connected population with construction of the National Veterans Resource Center (NVRC), 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 spring 2020.

Career Development Class for Veterans

HSH 200: Career Development for Veterans (1 Credit): Career Development for Veterans is a 1 credit career exploration course designed specifically to teach student veterans the strategies to improve their career decision-making and to communicate their interests and goals. The primary format to this course is discussion style, as well as, partner work, group activities, and lecture. Many of the projects will be assigned to be completed outside of class and involve tasks associated with real life career-related situations.
Register for HSH 200 on MySlice.syr.edu.
Details: Instructor: Jennifer Pluta Dates & Time: Tuesdays, August 28-December 4, 2018, 8:00 – 8:55 a.m. Falk College, Room 401

Syracuse University Office of Veteran and Military Affairs Announces Inaugural Advisory Board

As part of the University’s enduring commitment to be the nation’s premier institute of higher education for veterans and military-connected students, Syracuse University’s Office of Veterans and Military Affairs (OVMA) has announced the membership of its inaugural advisory board.

Comprised of leaders with diverse and deep levels of experience from the military, government, business, higher education, and public service sectors, the Board will provide advice and counsel to University leadership related to programs, initiatives, and opportunities positioned to advance the educational aspirations of the University’s veteran and military-connected students.

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University Hosts Fort Drum Youth Football Day for Children of Fort Drum Military Families

football players on field with group of boys
The Syracuse Orange football team welcomed more than 60 children of military families Sunday for Fort Drum Youth Football Day.

For the second year in a row, more than 60 children of military families were welcomed onto campus Sunday by the Syracuse Orange football team for Fort Drum Youth Football Day—a session exclusively for youth football players whose family members serve in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum.

The day camp, part of the University’s longstanding commitment to veterans and the military-connected, gave the young players a chance to watch a pre-season practice, test their skills with drills run by the SU players and get autographs. The children presented a signed Fort Drum Mountaineers helmet to the Orange, which was accepted on behalf of the team by senior quarterback Eric Dungey and redshirt senior defensive tackle Chris Slayton.

“Syracuse has taken a number of important steps to enhance its offerings and expand academic opportunities for military-connected students and families,” says Vice Chancellor and Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) Executive Director Mike Haynie. “The burden of service on military families is significant. They make extreme sacrifices for our country and face unique stressors as a result. To host these kids, introduce them to our athletes and give them a special, fun experience is the least we can do.”

Fort Drum Youth Football Day gave the young players a chance to watch a pre-season practice, test their skills with drills run by the SU players and get autographs.

The children and their families arrived Sunday to watch the tail end of team practice before the youth clinic began. Campers rotated through six stations, including a blocking station with the offensive lineman, a ball-security station with the running backs, and a tackling station with the linebackers. Following the skill instruction, the children and their families heard from Orange senior wide receiver Ben Brickman, who served four years in the Marines before enrolling at Syracuse.

Sunday’s event aligns with and supports Chancellor Kent Syverud’s commitment to make Syracuse University the “best place for veterans.” The objective is supported by a series of strategic initiatives, including the creation of the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs and IVMF. The University is furthering that commitment with construction of the National Veterans Resource Complex, a first-of-its-kind mult


i-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.

Sunday’s event is one piece of the overall Syracuse Athletics Military Appreciation Program, which includes the “Cuse for the Troops” ticket program where tickets can be purchased to send military members or veterans to the Military Appreciation game on Sept. 22 for free, and the “Military Pass,” which grants active-duty military personnel and veterans two complimentary tickets to a home football game during the 2018 season. Complimentary tickets are available for Syracuse’s Oct. 20 game against North Carolina during Orange Central Weekend and the Nov. 9 game against Louisville.

Military Veterans Attend Academic Boot Camp on Campus

For some military veterans, the first day of school at a new college or university is as challenging as a deployment to a foreign country. Immersion in a new culture and reintroduction to a demanding academic environment can make the transition from military to higher education difficult. To ease the transition, the Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) hosted its fourth intensive one-week academic boot camp at Syracuse University July 14-July 21.

The Warrior-Scholar Project coordinates immersive academic preparation courses for enlisted military veterans of any skill level at America’s top universities.

The Warrior-Scholar Project coordinates immersive academic preparation courses for enlisted military veterans of any skill level at America’s top universities. The program is designed to help military veterans develop and rediscover the skills and confidence necessary to successfully complete four-year undergraduate degrees. Because veterans are non-traditional students with unique experiences distinguishing them from their college peers, WSP also uses the programs to help prepare participants for the emotional and cultural adaptations required to succeed in a higher education setting.

“The Warrior-Scholar Project enables transitioning enlisted service members to become better prepared academically as they establish themselves at their respective universities and become leaders in the classroom,” says Ron Novack, executive director of Syracuse University’s Office for Veteran and Military Affairs. “We are honored to be a Warrior Scholar partner as we continue on our charge to be the ‘best place for veterans’ and afford these men and women the greatest opportunity to pursue their dreams and succeed academically.”

This year’s class of 14 Warrior Scholars hailed from California, Florida, Rhode Island, North Carolina, New York, Mississippi, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Massachusetts and had served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy Air Force and Coast Guard. All participants were enlisted service members whose careers spanned anywhere from 3-17 years.

WSP at Syracuse University is a collaborative effort between the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences. With the support of Dean Karin Ruhlandt and Senior Associate Dean Gerry Greenberg, Syracuse University provides faculty for each of the five seminars offered throughout the week. Syracuse faculty who taught during this year’s program include:

  • Tessa Murphy, assistant professor, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
  • Mark Schmeller, associate professor, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
  • Craig Champion, professor, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
  • Andrew Cohen, professor, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
  • Corri Zoli, research assistant professor, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

“The program at Syracuse University taps into the immense potential of post-9/11 veterans and reduces obstacles to success, addressing veterans’ misperceptions about college and building their confidence through an intense academic reorientation” says Sidney Ellington, executive director of WSP. “Syracuse shares our goal of seeing America’s veterans succeed in and outside the classroom—making them an ideal Warrior Scholar Project partner.”

WSP launched its first program at Yale University in 2012 with nine participants. Since then, WSP has expanded to encompass 17 top schools, including Syracuse University, and is on track to host more than 245 veterans at boot camps across the country in 2018. In addition to Syracuse University, WSP graduates have gone on to enroll at top schools, including Yale University, Harvard University and Georgetown University.

“My participation in Warrior-Scholar Project has profoundly impacted my life,” says Kaedy Puckett, WSP program alumni. “I didn’t know what to expect going into the program, but I left with a sense of confidence I had lost. While my military experience instilled discipline, the value of leadership and the importance of hard work, the academic setting is an entirely new way to challenge yourself. WSP flipped a switch in me that reignited goals I originally wanted to reach and served as a catalyst to get my life back on the path I set out to accomplish.”

“Stepping onto a college campus is intimidating for anyone and can be even more so for active or veteran service members,” says Mike Haynie, vice chancellor and executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. “The important role the Warrior-Scholar Project plays in engaging these military members with universities around the U.S. is vital to their future career success. We are proud to be a part of that work. It was an honor to host this year’s participants and share our educational experience with them.”

Each WSP boot camp is run by a team of WSP staff and student veterans and taught by university professors and graduate students. An intensive syllabus composed of both classic and modern scholarly works guides participants as they learn how to frame their ideas in an academic context, think critically, and formulate scholarly arguments. Participants not only learn the subject-matter material, but they also learn how to learn.

“Because of their technical training and diverse, cross-cultural experiences, military veterans have much to contribute to higher education, beyond their strengths in discipline, teamwork, and resilience,” says Corri Zoli, chair, Board of Academic Advisors, WSP, and director of research, Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University. “Yet too often veterans are an uncommon sight at four-year colleges. The presence on Syracuse University’s campus of venerable veterans’ programs, such as the Defense Comptrollership Program and the Military Visual Journalism Program, means our partnership with WSP is a natural fit, and it works exceptionally well. As an instructor, I can attest to how this college-readiness program strives to make veterans part of a wider academic conversation and to become campus leaders.”

WSP funders, including host universities and private donors, cover the entire cost of the program for participants, excluding travel. Student veterans attending Syracuse University boot camp will reside in campus housing and attend lectures in various classrooms.

To learn more about the program, visit www.warrior-scholar.org.

Syracuse University’s 2018 Tillman Scholars Announced

Katie Piston, a doctoral candidate in the bioengineering program in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Robin Evans, a first-year in the College of Law, have been named 2018 Tillman Scholars. The newly named class of 60 U.S. service members, veterans and military spouses across the nation will receive more than $1.3 million in scholarships to pursue higher education degrees from the Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF).

“The 2018 Class of Tillman Scholars is a diverse, innovative group of people dedicated to making an impact in their chosen fields; from nursing practice and water conservation to business administration, public policy and beyond,” says Marie Tillman, board chair and co-founder of PTF. “We are proud to support this newest class of Tillman Scholars, empowering them to make an impact in their own communities and around the world.”

Piston is a Navy spouse and proud granddaughter of a WWII veteran. While earning an undergraduate degree at Purdue, she experimented with the design of “smart” military helmets and spent six years observing orthopedic surgery at the local VA hospital.

Inspired by those who bravely serve, Piston is pursuing a doctoral degree in bioengineering at Syracuse in an effort to advance the treatment of serious diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury. She is part of a team researching nanocarriers to deliver lifesaving medications to patients with neurodegenerative diseases and infected wounds. In addition to her research, Piston serves as a teaching assistant and research mentor for undergraduate engineering students as well as a personal trainer and fitness and yoga instructor.

“I am so honored to represent Syracuse University and the Tillman Foundation as a Tillman Scholar. My two long-standing career goals are to conduct impactful research that will make a difference in worldwide health, and to educate the next generation of engineers to do the same,” says Piston. “Being a Tillman Scholar is more than just a scholarship, it empowers me through national networking and professional development, to honor Pat Tillman’s legacy and make an impact that improves the lives of not just veterans’ and their families but all citizens.”

Evans grew up an impoverished child in Kansas. The first in her family to serve in the armed forces, she initially enlisted to repay her undergraduate student loans and planned to only serve a few years. Evans went onto serve as a logistician, providing fuel, food, ammunition and maintenance support to soldiers for 22 years, through 14 relocations and multiple deployments and leadership roles. She is set to retire as a lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army and will begin law school at Syracuse this fall.

Inspired by the adoption of her son from Ethiopia, Evans has become a passionate advocate for both domestic and international adoption reform. Evans plans to use her degree to start a nonprofit that will ensure comprehensive pre-adoption education, post-adoption support and the necessary training for those who serve children and families in order to better understand the adoption and foster care experiences.

“I hope to use my voice and law degree to advocate for families—improving the adoption and foster care experience,” says Evans.

“Both Katie and Robin embody the strength, character, academic excellence and incredible potential for which Tillman scholars are known and we are proud to celebrate them as they receive this prestigious honor,” says Michael Haynie, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation and executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. “Being a Tillman partner and supporting their charge to empower active-duty service members, veterans and their spouses while having not one, but two notable scholars within our academic community at Syracuse affirms the hard work of so many as we remain steadfast in being the best place for veterans and their families.”

In 2002, Pat Tillman was a starting safety for the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals. He put his football career on hold to serve his country and died in April 2004 while serving with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan. Following his death, family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation, which invests in military veterans and their spouses through scholarship and programmatic support, and is dedicated to building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others.

Founded in 2008, the program supports active-duty service members, veterans and their spouses with academic scholarships, a national network and professional development opportunities, so they are empowered to make an impact at home and around the world. The scholarship program covers direct study-related expenses, including tuition and fees, books and living expenses, for scholars who are pursuing undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate degrees as a full-time student at a public or private, U.S.-based accredited institution. The selection process for the Tillman Scholars program is highly competitive.

Each year, the foundation collaborates with 15 University Partners to identify and select qualified applicants on their campuses for the Tillman Scholar screening process. Now in its second year as a University partner, Syracuse University was selected for its innovative veteran services, strong culture of support for military veterans and spouses and its rigorous academic programs.

To date, PTF has invested more than $16 million in academic support, and named over 580 Tillman Scholars at over 100 academic institutions nationwide.

26 ROTC Cadets Make Official Commitment to Serve

On Friday, May 11, ROTC cadets officially became the next generation of military leaders at the annual commissioning ceremony at Hendricks Chapel, signaling the end of training and the beginning of the graduating seniors’ military career. The cadets graduated from five schools, including Syracuse University, SUNY Oswego, Le Moyne College, Utica College and Cazenovia College. The 26 graduates became second lieutenants in either the U.S. Army or U.S. Air Force and were given their first salute by a mentor, family member or friend who serves or has previously served in the military.

Female cadet and male officer saluting each other
A cadet participates in her first salute at the ROTC commissioning ceremony.

Following the salute, the new officer presented the mentor with a silver dollar. This tradition is thought to have originated from British troops stationed in the U.S. during the colonial era. A silver dollar is given in exchange for the first salute, representing deeply felt gratitude for the mentorship and lessons given by the non-commissioned officer to the ROTC student, now a newly minted lieutenant.

This ceremony marked one of the first times Syracuse University has had two general officers execute the oath of office to their graduating daughters during the ceremony. Maj. Gen. Michael Fantini, keynote speaker, spoke about the importance of being passionate about your mission, your people and your family. In keeping with his theme, Fantini’s daughter, 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Fanitini, graduated with a degree in psychology and will be an intelligence officer stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas. Brig. Gen. John Hussey also commissioned his daughter, 2nd Lt. Erin Hussey, who graduated from SUNY Oswego and will join the Medical Service Corps at the NY Army National Guard in Buffalo. “These extraordinary women are carrying on their families’ legacy and commitment to service,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said.

There was a great show of pride from the families in the audience when Syverud remarked on how the commissioning “brought it home and full circle” for them, the cadets and the university, as one family member said.

“Even when your sons and daughters are in civilian clothes on campus, I always know who they are. It is not just that they carry themselves well. It is also that they are still some of the only students on campus who call me ‘sir,’” Syverud said. “To the parents and families here today—in humility I have to acknowledge this: I don’t know how you did it—I don’t know how you raised a child in today’s world to get up earlier; to work harder; to grin and bear it and do the job; to serve others and our country. But you did do it and I owe you my highest compliment as a parent. … Thank you for raising them. Thank you for sharing them with Syracuse University, and with our country.”

The day before the commissioning, Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie presented commissioning gifts to the ROTC cadets. The gifts serve as a token of appreciation for the students’ dedication to ROTC during their time at Syracuse.

Also during Thursday morning’s event, this year’s class of Dottle Family Scholars were recognized. Named for Paul Dottle, a parent of two recent alumni, and his family, Dottle scholars were chosen through a competitive process that explores the applicant’s academics, citizenship, physical aptitude and potential to serve successfully in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force. These scholarships allow the ROTC programs to recognize deserving cadets while having additional support to ensure that the University’s ROTC programs continue to train the best military leaders in the country.