Syracuse University Paints New Orleans Orange at National Conference for Military-Connected Students

Leaders from Syracuse University’s Office of Veterans and Military Affairs (OVMA), Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), Career Services, Veterans Affinity Group, and the Veterans Resource Center attended the 2018 NASPA Symposium on Military-Connected Students in New Orleans, Louisiana, recently. Hosted annually, the NASPA Symposium on Military-Connected Students focuses on effective strategies to serve and support the success of veterans and other military-connected students.

The three-day conference consisted of breakout sessions geared toward administrators in higher education for training, resource sharing and fact-finding about opportunities and advancement of student veterans within the institutions of higher education.

Syracuse University leaders shared “best practices” with other universities on making professional graduate degrees more veteran-friendly, including a presentation about the VET-MGMT project by the IVMF funded by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) from 2014-2017. The goal of this project is to develop accelerated and stackable graduate degrees at Syracuse University for student veterans. The “Advancing Veterans Success in Higher Education” report was one of the outcomes of the VET-MGMT and was leveraged in highlighting the “best practices” at NASPA.

The SU team also presented a detailed poster outlining a simulation project currently underway on the campus. The “VET-SIM: Designing Simulations to Support Transitions from Military Service to Collegiate Study” is an effort to support veterans and strengthen their pathways through collegiate study. Professor Benjamin Dotger, with the support of Syracuse University’s School of Education is partnering with the IVMF, and OVMA to design and implement a VET-SIM, a simulation model of real-life challenges experienced on campus by student veterans to help veterans navigate and overcome barriers to collegiate success.

“It is critical to be present at conferences, such as NASPA, to share best practices as well as learn what others are doing within higher education serving our nation’s veterans and military-connected students,” says Ron Novack, OVMA executive director. “During NASPA, I made many great connections with my peers from other academic institutions, shared ideas and brought back to campus additional ideas to assist in solidifying our commitment in making Syracuse University the ‘Best Place for Veterans.’ It was great to hear many colleagues in higher education are using IVMF’s research and using our university work as best examples in the nation serving those who have served.”


Student Veteran Profile: Ryan Gross ’18, University’s First Tillman Scholar

Growing up, Ryan Gross was always inspired hearing about his grandfathers’ World War II experiences, including leading tank units at the Battle of the Bulge and serving on a Navy destroyer in the Pacific. It was this connection that led him to become a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. These experiences instilled in Ryan the value of public service and the need for strategic thinking in the military. He transitioned from the Army to working for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) after his deployment in Baghdad. For over a decade, Gross has led intelligence analysis for ambassadors, policymakers and commanding generals.

Ryan Gross

Now, as a Syracuse University student veteran, Gross is representing the Orange as its first-ever Tillman Scholar.

Syracuse University became an official Pat Tillman Foundation University Partner in 2016, joining 14 other universities across the country. The University was chosen for its commitment to providing support to student veterans and their spouses.

The scholarship was named after Pat Tillman, a former NFL player for the Arizona Cardinals who left his professional football career to join the U.S. Army Rangers following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Pat Tillman Foundation was founded in 2004, following Tillman’s death while serving in Afghanistan. The foundation’s mission is to unite and empower remarkable military veterans and spouses as the next generation of public and private sector leaders committed to service beyond self. Listen to Ryan Gross describe his experience as a Tillman Scholar. Gross is a candidate for the master of public administration  at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

“Just having my name mentioned in the same sentence as Pat Tillman is a tremendous honor,” Gross says. “Pat gave 110 percent on everything he did, and was the epitome of selfless service, so being one of 60 selected by his foundation out of 2,100 applicants is incredibly humbling. Pat’s legacy, my experiences with the foundation and interaction with fellow Tillman scholars provides me the motivation I need to give 110 percent to everything I do here at Maxwell and my life beyond Maxwell.”

Gross added that his experience at Syracuse has been incredible.

“Being away from my wife and kids in Florida is hard, but everyone from the OVMA, the VA office, Maxwell faculty and my classmates at Maxwell have been amazing, and have made Syracuse my home away from home,” he says. “I’ve met incredible students who are going to go on to do amazing things in their careers. I’m glad that being a Tillman Scholar provided me the opportunity to experience all of the great things at Syracuse University.”

Tillman Scholars are chosen for outstanding academic performance and leadership potential. The Tillman Scholar fellowship program supports Tillman Scholars with academic scholarships, a national network and professional development opportunities so they are empowered to make an impact in the world. Scholarship money is used to assist with academic expenses, such as tuition and fees, living expenses and books.

Applications for the 2018 Tillman Scholarship open Feb. 1 and close March 1 for active-duty service members, veterans and military spouses at Syracuse University.

Applicants must provide documentation of their military service, or their spouse’s. Additionally, they must submit a resume, two essay responses and a third-party recommendation. To apply to be at Tillman Scholar, visit the Pat Tillman Foundation application site.

Finalists will be chosen in April and will be interviewed by the Pat Tillman Foundation. For assistance with the application process, please contact Jolynn Parker, director of the Center for Fellowship & Scholarship Advising, at 315.443.2759.


Veterans Affinity Group Hosting Community Social

The Syracuse University Veterans Affinity Group is hosting an SU Veterans Community Social in partnership with the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) on Tuesday, Feb. 13, from 5-9 p.m. at Orange Crate Brewing Co., 731 S. Crouse Ave. All are invited to attend—not only veterans and military-connected faculty, staff and students at Syracuse University, but anyone with a passion for serving veterans and who enjoys community service projects throughout the academic year.

Three people, including one in a "Real Veterans Wear Orange" T-shirt, pushing a dolly of packages
Care packages for deployed service members being prepared

“The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs is proud to work with the Veterans Affinity Group to bring everyone together,” says U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Ron Novack, OVMA executive director. “It’s an exceptionally supportive and inclusive group for anyone who is dedicated to serving veterans, whether they have served themselves or not.”

The Syracuse University Veterans Affinity Group’s mission is to create an engaging community and develop cross-campus partnerships in an effort to support the University’s military-connected employees and students. Expanding membership beyond veterans and military-connected people further strengthens the University’s commitment to enhancing everyone’s campus experience and creating a distinct sense of community.

“Rather than focusing on themselves, veterans often seek out opportunities to continue to serve,” says Edward A. Kiewra (lieutenant colonel, U.S. Army, retired), research associate at the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA). “The Syracuse University Veterans Affinity Group provides a means for veterans, those who are still serving their country and military-affiliated individuals to meet on a regular basis, enjoy that shared camaraderie typical of military organizations, and engage in projects and activities through which they can continue to serve the University and surrounding community.”

The group was established in 2014 under its first president, Jake VanMarter, credited with creating the program for faculty and staff who are veterans at Syracuse University. The group’s new president, Jennifer Renee Pluta, also serves as Syracuse University’s assistant director of Veteran Career Services at the OVMA. In her new role, Pluta looks to expand the group’s membership and participation. Her main goals are to:

  • engage the veteran community;
  • unite faculty and staff veterans and members of military-connected community;
  • influence veteran-related policies on campus; and
  • inform the Syracuse University and greater Syracuse community.

“Under Jennifer’s leadership, coordination and organizational skills, she has taken the group to a whole new level,” says Philip Benedict, Physical Plant facilities supervisor and U.S. Air Force veteran. “Jennifer is welcoming of all, military and non-military alike. She sees this as one for all, all for one. We are here, we are family, we are ONE!”

“Jennifer has done a great job of bringing veterans together from all categories at the University—in ways they never have before,” added Robert Murrett (vice admiral, U.S. Navy, retired), deputy director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and professor of oractice at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. “It’s a terrific organization.”

For those interested in joining the Veterans Affinity Group, monthly meetings are held on the second Thursday of the month from noon-1 p.m. at various locations across the campus. The next meeting is on Thursday, Feb. 8, at Dineen Hall, room 300L, hosted by  Murrett.

To get updates or join the Veterans Affinity Group, fill out this form for more information or follow the group’s Facebook and Twitter at @SUVetsAffinity.


‘Best Place for Vets’ in Full Force at Student Veterans of America Conference

Syracuse University student veterans and members of the Office of Veterans and Military Affairs, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, the Veterans Affinity Group, and University admissions attended the Student Veterans of America National Conference in San Antonio in early January.

Syracuse University turned the Lone Star State orange recently as over 20 Orange student veterans, the Office of Veterans and Military Affairs (OVMA), the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), the team from the Veterans Affinity Group, and University admissions attended the Student Veterans of America (SVA) National Conference in San Antonio in early January.

Syracuse boasted the largest Student Veteran Organization student chapter in attendance and in total the University had over 30 people at the conference. SVA’s national conference is the largest annual gathering of student veterans, advocates, thought leaders, stakeholders and supporters in higher education in the world. Over 2,000 student veterans, higher education professionals, alumni and employers attend for training, recruiting and fact-finding about opportunities for student veterans.

The three-day conference consisted of breakout sessions geared toward student veteran success and post-graduation opportunities. Syracuse University had the most presentation and panel discussions—five—than any other university, sharing “best practices” (campus resources, culture, research and analytics, entrepreneurship, financial literacy) with other universities and solidifying the University’s commitment to making the University the “Best Place for Veterans.”

Leaders from OVMA and the University led a panel discussion about the role on-campus resources play in maximizing student veteran networks, resources and the importance of professional networking as well as critical financial literacy.

IVMF’s Research and Evaluation team’s presentation focused on debunking the myths surrounding veterans as college students and discussed empirical evidence touting the benefits of enrolling these non-traditional students on a campus. In addition, IVMF delivered training on entrepreneurship in conjunction with key University partners—First Data, Disney and the Small Business Administration —reinforcing the program and resources available to student veterans interested in starting a business while pursuing education.

Student veterans were able to network with members from the OVMA, IVMF and University admissions learning about all that Syracuse University has to offer to student veterans on campus and at training programs around the U.S.

“It is critical to empower our student veterans and afford them the opportunity to attend the SVA National Conference, where they learn a great deal of best practices, bring those back to campus to further enrich their student experience and that of others at Syracuse University,” says Ron Novack, OVMA executive director. “None of this could happen without the generous support of our gracious donors and supporters of the Veterans Legacy Fund(VLF), who enabled us to send our 20 student veterans to the conference this year. We hope others will join the VLF and help us increase that number next year.”

James Gilchrest, Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow at the IVMF and National Guardsman, attended the conference. “I was ecstatic when I learned I would be going to #NatCon2018. I am a former SVA chapter president and have always wanted to attend,” Gilchrest says. “During NatCon I made it my personal mission to share the programs IVMF offers as well as OVMA’s unique and supportive services on campus. I also made great connections with employers and other organizations who are terrific support resources for me as a student veteran. I’m proud to be affiliated with a university that keeps the needs of student veterans at the top of their priority list.”

Katy Quartaro ’18 USMC veteran and secretary of Syracuse University’s SVO, as well as a team leader for PAVE also attended. “One of the biggest things I learned at SVA NATCON was that the student veterans of Syracuse University are very lucky,” Quartaro says. “I do not think I would have been able to attend without the help of the University, OVMA and the Veteran Legacy Fund. The fact that I was able to focus on learning as much as possible without worrying about the financial impact, made the event that much better and reinforced the support student veterans here at SU really get.”

About Syracuse University

Founded in 1870, Syracuse University is a private international research university dedicated to advancing knowledge and fostering student success through teaching excellence, rigorous scholarship and interdisciplinary research. Comprising 11 academic schools and colleges, the University has a long legacy of excellence in the liberal arts, sciences and professional disciplines that prepares students for the complex challenges and emerging opportunities of a rapidly changing world. Students enjoy the resources of a 270-acre main campus and extended campus venues in major national metropolitan hubs and across three continents. Syracuse’s student body is among the most diverse for an institution of its kind across multiple dimensions, and students typically represent all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Syracuse also has a long legacy of supporting veterans and is home to the nationally recognized Institute for Veterans and Military Families, the first university-based institute in the U.S. focused on addressing the unique needs of veterans and their families.


Hometown Hero: LTC (U.S. Army Ret.) Ed Kiewra

Syracuse Employee and Army Veteran, Ed Kiewra will be honored as the Hometown Hero during the Syracuse Men’s Football game vs. Boston College on Saturday, November 25, 2017.

Lieutenant Colonel Kiewra was commissioned as a military intelligence second lieutenant in the US Army in September 1970 through the ROTC program at Hofstra University. Having been detailed as an infantry officer for his first year, he graduated from the infantry officer basic course, Ranger School, and jump school prior to his first assignment with the 25th Infantry Division. After serving as both a mortar and rifle platoon leader in an infantry company, he moved on to serving in several different capacities as an intelligence officer, including providing intelligence support for contingency operations assigned to the Division.


His next assignment was with the 82nd Airborne Division, where he served as the intelligence staff officer in an airborne infantry battalion, a Division intelligence reconnaissance and surveillance staff officer, and a company commander in the Division’s military intelligence battalion. He had many memorable and personally rewarding experiences as a commander, to include leading his company on an 8-mile run in formation, with the entire unit completing the run in just over one hour.


Following his five years with the 82nd Airborne Division, he served as a special security officer at a remote installation on the Black Sea coast in Turkey. He returned to the US for an assignment as a systems manager with the US Army Intelligence and Security Command, where he assessed future technical requirements and coordinated logistical and training life-cycle support for new technical systems at several strategic signals intelligence installations.


He was then assigned as a strategic intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency. In this capacity, he exercised primary analytical responsibilities for issues related to command, control, and communications functions associated with the transportation systems of former Warsaw Pact countries. He also researched, authored, and published four comprehensive studies and a number of shorter analytical papers and assessments related to Soviet military logistical capabilities and vulnerabilities in Afghanistan that were disseminated at the highest levels of the Department of Defense and Executive Branch, as well as to members of Congress.


His final assignment was at the Defense Language Institute, where he graduated from the Italian language course and served as the associate dean of the Asian School at the Institute. He retired from active military service in January 1991.


Lieutenant Colonel Kiewra’s commitment and dedication to the Army, its mission, and the soldiers with whom her served was best summarized by one of his battalion commanders, who said, “If I had to take my battalion into combat, I would want (then) Captain Kiewra as one of my company commanders.”


Hometown Hero: U.S. Navy Veteran Derek Brainard

Syracuse University employee and U.S. Navy  Veteran, Derek Brainard, was honored as “Hometown Hero” during Friday’s SU Women’s Volleyball vs. Virginia Tech.

U.S. Navy Veteran, Petty Officer Second Class Derek Brainard hails from Kirkville, New York. He served as a United States Navy Musician from July 2007 to December 2013. Upon completion of Recruit Training Command Basic Training in Great Lakes, Illinois and Musician “A” School in Little Creek, Virgina, Petty Officer Brainard completed his full tour of duty attached to Naval Base Kitsap, in Bremerton, Washington.

As a member of Navy Band Northwest, Petty Officer Brainard served as a Trumpet Instrumentalist, Unit Leader, Operations Coordinator, Command Fitness Leader, and Public Affairs Officer. Petty Officer Brainard’s musicianship and leadership directly contributed to over 640 performances for audiences exceeding 30 million people. He is the recipient of two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

The proudest moments of Petty Officer Brainard’s career as a military bugler came in the solemn service of rendering “Taps” to those that gave the greatest sacrifice for our country and our enduring freedom.

Today, Derek Brainard is Syracuse University’s Financial Literacy Coordinator.


Hometown Hero- Army ROTC Cadet Colin Santacroce

Syracuse University Army ROTC Cadet and U.S. Army Veteran, Colin Santacroce, was honored as “Hometown Hero” during Friday’s SU Football game vs. Clemson.

Cadet Colin Santacroce enlisted in the United States Army in 2010 as an 11 Bravo, Infantryman, and he attended One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia.


After completing Infantry training, Cadet Santacroce served in 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, in the 10th Mountain Division, at Fort Drum, New York.  He deployed as a Squad Assault Weapons gunner to the Zhari District of Kandahar, Afghanistan for one year in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM.

In 2012, Cadet Santacroce completed the Warrior Leader Course at Fort Drum and was the recipient of the Jared C. Monti award for outstanding leadership.  After his promotion to Sergeant, Cadet Santacroce deployed again to Afghanistan in support of OPERATON ENDURING FREEDOM for one year. He was later promoted to Staff Sergeant.


Cadet Santacroce’s proudest military moment was winning the 10th Mountain Division’s best Non-Commissioned Officer competition in February 2015.  Today, he attends Syracuse University on a Green-to-Gold Scholarship.  In December 2018, Cadet Santacroce will enter the United States Army as a 2nd Lieutenant.


Celebrating Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month: Maria Delgado, Public Health G’19, Student Veteran

As Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month continues through October 15th, 2017 Maria Delgado G’19 took some time to reflect on how her heritage and family influenced her to join the U.S. Army. Delgado, a Syracuse University graduate student from Buenos Aires Argentina, Army medic and LPN, credits her family’s hardworking lifestyle for her success in the Army and now is focused on Public Health in Falk College with a goal of ultimately working to improve preventative patient care – and becoming a commissioned officer. She is a prime example of the value student veterans bring to the campus and what Syracuse University offers to our nation’s heroes.


Hometown Hero: Student Veteran Katherine Quartaro

Syracuse University Student and Marine Corps Veteran, Katherine Quartaro, was honored as “Hometown Hero” during today’s SU Football game vs. Pittsburgh.

Katherine was born in Rochester, New York, and graduated from Churchville-Chili Senior High School in 2008. She attended Basic Training at Parris Island, South Carolina.  Following combat and Military Police training, she reported to III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, Military Police Support Company in Okinawa, Japan and was briefly assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Provost Marshal’s Office.


In June 2010, Katherine was attached to the 12th Marine Artillery Regiment to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom- Philippines and she deployed to the southern island of Mindanao, Philippines, as part of the Marine Security Element for the Joint Special Operations Task Force- Philippines (JSOTF-P).  She served as the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of ammunition. Katherine acted as Quick Response Force and security on various humanitarian missions, and escorted VIPs and sensitive mission critical materials through areas dense with Al-Qaeda backed rebels. For this deployment, she was awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal.  Following her return to Japan, Katherine attended Military Working Dog Handler’s Course at Lackland Air Force Base where she graduated at the top of her class with distinguished honors. She also served as a Combat Marksmanship Coach after receiving high rifle and pistol qualifications throughout her career.


In 2012, Katherine was assigned to the Provost Marshal’s Office, Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, where she and her explosive detector dog conducted patrols, antiterrorism operations, and assisted the U.S. Secret Service on multiple missions.  In 2013 Katherine transferred to the Criminal Investigation Division, where she conducted investigations of military, State, and Federal law alongside NCIS. For her service with the Criminal Investigation Division, she was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal prior to separating honorably in October 2016 after eight years of active duty service.  Katherine is a Junior studying Forensic Science and Psychology and she serves as the Secretary of the Student Veterans Organization and the Team Leader for the PAVE program. Katherine’s proudest moment of her service was becoming a Marine and receiving her Eagle, Globe, and Anchor from her Senior Drill Instructor, SSgt Davis, following the Crucible at MCRD Parris Island.


Hometown Hero: United States Marine Corps Sergeant Katelyn Hunter

United States Marine Corps Sergeant Katelyn Hunter is the Hometown Hero for the September 9, 2017 SU Football Game V. Middle Tennessee.

Sergeant Hunter’s first assignment was with the Marine Corps Installations Pacific in Okinawa, Japan. She deployed with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit supporting multiple small-scale exercises in various countries in the Pacific.

In 2015, Sergeant Hunter graduated the Machine Gunner’s course at the School of Infantry in Camp Geiger, North Carolina. She became part of the first group of females to earn this skill in the Marine Corps.Sergeant Hunter’s proudest military moment was in 2014 when she received the Corporal William T. Perkins Award as the Marine Corps’ Combat Cameraman of the Year.

Sergeant Hunter’s proudest military moment was in 2014 when she received the Corporal William T. Perkins Award as the Marine Corps’ Combat Cameraman of the Year.

Today, she is a student at the Military Photojournalism program at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.