Hometown Hero: Airman 1st Class Preston Blake

United States Air Force Airman First Class Preston Blake is the Hometown Hero for the September 16, 2017 SU Football Game V. Central Michigan.

United States Air Force Airman First Class Preston Blake hails from Weedsport, New York, and on August 6, 2014, he enlisted in the New York Air National Guard. Airman Blake graduated from both the Air Force Basic Military Training and Air Force Security Forces Academy as a Distinguished Graduate.

In August of this year, Airman Blake returned home following a six-month deployment to the Middle East supporting Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel. For his overseas performance, Airman Blake was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Medal and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

Airman Blake’s proudest military moment took place when he was hand-selected to participate in a military exchange program, where he was embedded with the Qatar police force and was responsible for advising and directing Qatari police officers in western military tactics, training, and procedures.

Today, Airman Blake serves with the 174th Security Forces Squadron, Hancock Field in Syracuse, New York, as an Internal and External Security Response Team Member.

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Syracuse University’s Ryan Gross Named 2017 Tillman Scholar

Ryan Gross grew up hearing stories about his grandfathers’ military experiences during World War II, leading tank units through the Battle of the Bulge and serving on a Navy destroyer in the Pacific. Inspired by their service, he accepted a commission in the U.S. Army as a military intelligence officer. After his deployment with an infantry battalion in Baghdad, Gross transitioned from the Army to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), where he leads intelligence analysis.

Gross, a graduate student in Syracuse University’s master of public administration program (M.P.A.) in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, has been named a 2017 Tillman Scholar in a cohort representing 61 U.S. service members, veterans and military spouses across the nation. The newly named class, funded by the Pat Tillman Foundation, will receive more than $1.1 million in scholarships to pursue higher education degrees.

“These scholars are tackling challenges across national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights and education. They believe their best years of service to our country are still ahead of them, and they are working together to strengthen communities at home and around the world,” Marie Tillman, co-founder and president of the Pat Tillman Foundation said in a statement released on June 8. “In Pat’s spirit of service, we are proud to unite and empower them as our country’s next leaders.”

Gross says he is honored to be selected as a Tillman Scholar and is eager to begin his studies in Syracuse University’s renowned M.P.A. program.

Through his experiences in Baghdad, Washington, D.C., U.S. Central Command, and three civilian deployments to Afghanistan, Gross witnessed how “one size fits all” policies developed at the national level do not always translate effectively to the tactical environment, requiring commanders on the ground to determine how to tailor policies to fit their battlespace. He plans to use his M.P.A. degree to build upon the leadership and decision-making skills he gained through his career and to hone his policy development expertise. His goal is to create flexible, effective policy that will meet military commanders’ and soldiers’ operational needs on the ground.

In 2014, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud identified four pillars to guide the future growth of the University, one of which was ensuring the University once again became the best institution for veterans and their families. J. Michael Haynie, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation and the executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, works closely with Chancellor Syverud on that important effort. He says he is proud of the University’s partnership with the Tillman Foundation and is pleased Gross selected Syracuse University for his academic pursuits.

“Syracuse University is honored to have Ryan as part of our academic community and to celebrate him as our first Tillman Scholar recipient,” says Haynie. “The purpose and mission of the Tillman Foundation aligns well with Syracuse University’s commitment to be the best place for veterans. The education Ryan will receive and the skills he will develop during his time at the Maxwell School will well equip him to inspire positive and impactful changes in military operations.”

The scholarship honors Pat Tillman. In 2002, Tillman, a starting safety for the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals, put his football career on hold to serve his country. Family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation following Pat’s death in April 2004 while serving with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan. The foundation 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 Tillman Scholars program supports our nation’s active-duty service members, veterans and military spouses by investing in their higher education. 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. Syracuse University was named a University Partner in 2016, selected for its innovative veteran services, strong culture of support for military veterans and spouses and its rigorous academic programs.

About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private research university of extraordinary academics, distinctive offerings and an undeniable spirit. With a gorgeous campus in the heart of New York State, a global footprint, and nearly 150 years of history, our University is made for those who want a quintessential college experience. Proudly selective, we take a chance on people who dream big. This is where you come to cheer, to grow and to become the person you want to be. The scope of our University is a testament to its strengths: a pioneering history dating to 1870; a choice of more than 200 majors and 100 minors; nearly 15,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students; more than a quarter million alumni in 160 countries; and a student population from all 50 U.S. states and 123 countries. Syracuse University’s proud commitment to veterans and their families is unrivaled in higher education. From the leading role it played in the original G.I. Bill, to launching the nationally recognized Institute for Veterans and Military Families, the University continues to honor and expand upon this legacy.

About the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University
The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs is Syracuse University’s home for innovative, interdisciplinary teaching and research in the social sciences, public policy, public administration, and international relations. It is the # 1 ranked school in the nation for graduate education in public affairs, offering highly regarded professional degrees alongside advanced scholarly degrees in the social sciences; and it is home also to undergraduate programs across the full spectrum of social sciences.

Maxwell scholars conduct wide-ranging research through nine interdisciplinary centers, each focused on a topical area within public affairs, such as social and economic policy, conflict and collaboration, public wellness, aging, energy and environment, national security, regional studies, and more. For more information, please visit: maxwell.syr.edu.

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Military Veterans to Attend Academic Boot Camp at Syracuse University

Intensive program helps prepare enlisted veterans for transition from military to four-year college.

Syracuse, New York – 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) is hosting an intensive one week academic boot camp at Syracuse University beginning Sunday, June 18.

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 boot camps to help prepare participants for the emotional and cultural adaptations required to succeed in a higher education setting.

“We are proud to host a Warrior-Scholar Project Academic boot camp at Syracuse University for the 2017 year,” said Dr. Sidney Ellington, Executive Director of WSP. “The program at Syracuse will tap into the immense potential of Post-9/11 veterans and reduce obstacles to success, addressing veterans’ misperceptions about college and building their confidence through an intense academic reorientation.”

WSP launched its first program at Yale University in 2012 with nine participants. Since then, WSP has expanded to encompass 12 top schools, including Syracuse University, and is on track to host more than 200 veterans at boot camps across the country in 2017. In addition to Syracuse University, WSP graduates have gone on to enroll at top schools including Yale University, Harvard University and Georgetown University.

“Stepping onto a college campus is intimidating for anyone, and can be even more so for active or veteran service members,” said Mike Haynie, Vice Chancellor and Executive Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families – Syracuse University. “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, and we look forward to hosting this year’s participants this summer to share our educational experience with them.”

Each WSP boot camp is run by a team of 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; they 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,” said Corri Zoli, Chair, Board of Academic Advisors – WSP and Director of Research, Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism – 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.”

“This course was a rigorous challenge which prepared myself to succeed in my studies at Syracuse University,” said Adam LeGrand, WSP program alumni. “The focused reading and writing skills have enabled me to anticipate earning honors this past semester; I highly recommend this course to any veteran considering returning to higher education. The contacts and support I have received in my goals of attending law school from WSP staff and alumni have by far been the most important outcome for myself.”

WSP funders 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.

About the Warrior-Scholar Project
The Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) runs immersive academic boot camps hosted at America’s top universities for enlisted military veterans, and is funded by the prestigious Bob Woodruff Foundation, the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The majority of enlisted personnel exiting the military have not been in a classroom setting for several years, and find it hard to transition, being unprepared for the fundamentally different social and cultural environment. WSP helps veterans rediscover and develop the skills and confidence necessary to successfully complete 4-year undergraduate programs in higher education. WSP unlocks their educational potential and transforms the way veterans view themselves as students. For more information, visit http://www.warrior-scholar.org, email info@warrior-scholar.org or call 202-796-8777.

About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private research university of extraordinary academics, distinctive offerings, and an undeniable spirit. With a gorgeous campus in the heart of New York State, a global footprint, and nearly 150 years of history, our university is made for those who want a quintessential college experience. Proudly selective, we take a chance on people who dream big. This is where you come to cheer, to grow, to become the person you want to be. The scope of our university is a testament to its strengths: a pioneering history dating to 1870; a choice of more than 200 majors and 100 minors; nearly 15,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students; more than a quarter million alumni in 160 countries; and a student population from all 50 U.S. states and 123 countries.

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