OVMA Staff

Ronald Novack (Colonel, U.S. Army, Ret.)J Ronald Novack

Executive Director of Veteran and Military Affairs (jrnovack@syr.edu)

Ron Novack serves as the Executive Director for the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) at Syracuse University since 2015. He leads a campus portfolio responsible for all programs and initiatives related to supporting the military-connected students, family members, and faculty and staff veteran workforce at the university. Prior to his arrival at Syracuse University, Ron served 33 years on active duty in the United States Army commanding at every level culminating as a brigade commander in the 3rd Infantry Division. He served in the 101st Airborne Division, 82d Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division, 3rd Infantry Division, and U.S. Special Operations Command. Ron deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq five times. He holds a B.S. in Business Management from the University of Maryland, MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and an M.S. in National Resource Strategy at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

 

Mirza Tihic

Assistant Director for Veteran and Military Affairs (mtihic@syr.edu)

Mirza Tihic is the Assistant Director for the Office of Vice Chancellor for Veteran and Military Affairs. He oversees programs supporting veterans, military members, and members of military families on campus at Syracuse University. Tihic has served in a variety of administrative roles at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Here he supported programs and initiatives directed at education and employment for veterans, and managed program support services.

Tihic previously served as Program Manager for the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at SU’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management. There he supported the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV), inclusive entrepreneurship through Start-Up NY and SBA PRIME, the Syracuse Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp, the Panasci Business Plan Competition, the South Side Entrepreneurship Connect Project, and the D’Aniello Entrepreneurial Internship Program. In addition, he was an instructor in Whitman’s entrepreneurial consulting class and business plan laboratory.

Previously, Tihic operated a Syracuse-based small business, Tihic Construction LLC, a residential remodeling company. He also worked with Carrier Corporation in the pricing strategy department, and served as associate business manager for Daymon Worldwide. In 2009, he co-founded Syracuse’s North Side Learning Center, a family literacy center that helps immigrants and destitute individuals in that community.

Originally from Bosnia, Tihic holds an MBA from the Whitman School, a Master’s degree in Neuroscience from SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from The College of Arts and Sciences. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at SU’s School of Education, concentrating his research on inclusive entrepreneurship within the disability studies program.

 

Lauren Pyland

Operations Manager (lewhitmi@syr.edu)

Lauren Pyland Portrait

Lauren Pyland is the Operations Manager in the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, responsible for assisting the Executive Director in daily operations, mission and financial operations. In this role, Pyland will also provide planning and execution of events, oversight and coordination of veteran and military related offices across campus.

Originally from Northern New York, Pyland first came to Syracuse to complete her undergraduate degree at Syracuse University.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. While at Syracuse University, Pyland participated in the Army ROTC program and commissioned from the program upon graduation in 2012. Pyland currently serves as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve.

 

Jennifer Pluta

Assistant Director, Veteran & Military Family Career Services (jrpluta@syr.edu)

Jennifer Pluta Portrait

In her role as Assistant Director of Veteran and Military Family Career Services, Jennifer Pluta focuses on the career development and employment needs of the veteran and military connected community at Syracuse University.  Jennifer is charged with developing and managing relationships with employers seeking to connect with student veterans as part of their recruiting strategy.  In this role, Jennifer tracks placement outcomes of all graduates in this population in order to achieve 100% placement.  Jennifer is a graduate of Alfred University earning a B.A. in Sociology, in addition to a M.S. in Higher Education Administration from Syracuse University.

Prior to joining the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA), Jennifer served in a number of roles at Syracuse University Career Services to include, Outreach and Special Projects Coordinator, Internship Coordinator, Chair of the Career Services Network and Assistant Director of Internship Services.  During her role as Assistant Director of Internship Services, Jennifer oversaw the streaming of processes and services for students seeking internships and academic credit resulting in a higher level of accountability and transparency.

Since 1999, Jennifer has been serving in the U.S. Army Reserve and currently holds the rank of Master Sergeant, attached to 1st Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division (ARCD), Ft Devens, MA.  As a Master Sergeant, she holds the position of Area Leader charged with overseeing the mission objectives and readiness of troops in her command.  During her time in ARCD, Jennifer has served as a Quality Assurance Manager and Army Reserve Career Counseling.  Prior to joining ARCD, Jennifer was attached to the 770th EN CO, Penn Yan, NY, as a Quarry Specialist.  During her time at the 770th EN CO, she was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom ‘03-‘04.

Her military education and training includes: Warrior Leaders Course, Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course, Senior Leaders Course, Army Reserve Career Counselors Course, Hazard Material Course, Unit Prevention Leader, Duty Appointed Retention NCO, and Combat Lifesaver.  Finally, her U.S. decorations and badges include:  Army Achievement Medals (w/4OLC), Army Reserve Component Achievement Medals (w/5OLC), National Defense Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Services Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal w/ M Device/Bronze Hourglass, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Oversee Service Bar, Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Drivers Badge with W Device, and Army Reserve Career Counselor Badge.

 

Jessica Calhoun

Assistant Director for Veteran and Military Admissions (jcalhoun@syr.edu)

Jessica Calhoun is the Assistant Director for Veteran and Military Admissions in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs at Syracuse University. She oversees the recruitment, advising, admission, and enrollment of active-duty service-members, veterans, military-connected students, and ROTC cadets. Jessica travels to military bases, community colleges, DOD high schools, and military junior colleges to talk to prospective students about the opportunities Syracuse University. Prior to her role in Admissions, Jessica worked in the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship Programs at Syracuse University as a Financial Aid Counselor. In her role, she advised undergraduate and graduate students and student veterans on all aspects of federal, state, and institutional aid and veteran benefits.

Originally from San Diego, California, Jessica worked in the private sector for several years before transitioning in to higher education. Her career in higher education started in 2009 at California State University, Chico, where she worked as a Financial Aid Analyst in the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office. While at CSU, Chico, she served as a Veteran Educational Support Team member, Writing Mentor, Women’s Lacrosse Coach, and Teaching Assistant. During that time, she also received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and began a Master of Arts degree in Composition and Rhetoric.

Jessica has over a decade of work with veterans and active-duty service-members, both in higher education and in the private sector. She continues to champion the areas of veteran access, inclusion, and advocacy through her work and volunteerism.

 

Joseph Torok

Director of Information Technology (jitorok@syr.edu)

Torok serves as the Director of Information Technology, providing leadership, strategic planning and overall coordination of computing and information services to all entities of Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) at Syracuse University. Working in conjunction with the University’s CIO Office and the University Technology Leadership Committee he leads both the IVMF and the OVMA in technology advancement, in support of Syracuse University’s long-standing commitment to veterans and their families.

Torok has over 20 years of experience in Information Technology, both in field and in management roles. Prior to joining IVMF, Torok served as the Technology Program Director at Bryant & Stratton College where he was responsible for overseeing and future growth of four technology programs of study including Network Technology, Security Technology, Office Information Technology and Mobile Application Development. With his passion for technology and lifelong learning, he illustrates the connection between technology and entrepreneurial success as well as between technology and personal development. He is a strategic, analytical intellectual who encourages learning by doing, discerns whether those he supports comprehend the delivery of new and challenging information, and shows sensitivity to learning barriers and motivation triggers by using metaphors, examples, and analogies to clarify understanding and to make difficult concepts memorable.

Throughout his career, Torok has been a leader on many technology initiatives such as the design and implementation of a hands-on network/security student lab environment for 16 college campuses and presentations that include “The Hidden Dangers of Wireless Networks,” “Moodle in the Classroom” and “It Takes a Hacker to Catch a Hacker”.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and a master’s degree in Networking and Network Security from Rochester Institute of Technology.

 

Stephanie Salanger

Director of Communications (ssalange@syr.edu)

Stephanie Salanger began as director of communications at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) in 2017, bringing with her more than 25 years of experience in advertising agency and corporate communications roles, covering integrated marketing, public relations, and media relations in a variety of business industries.

Salanger is responsible for driving the national strategy of both the IVMF and OVMA as well as enhancing the reputation of the Syracuse University brand with regards to its imperative of supporting military-connected audiences. She spearheads the communications and design team to deliver impactful messaging and reputation management for the 10 programs within the entrepreneurship, community engagement, education and research portfolio pillars of the IVMF and OVMA.

Salanger previously held senior-level communications roles at Eric Mower and Associates, Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications. She helped with the development and execution of Time Warner Cable’s national Connect a Million Minds STEM Initiative – a national program challenging parents, mentors, students and employers to increase involvement in after-school STEM-related activities. Her STEM in Sports initiative and STEM Regional Science Festival received telecommunications industry Beacon Awards in 2014 and 2015 and she was awarded several Public Relations Society of America and American Advertising Federation awards for her community engagement, publicity and marketing efforts on behalf of a variety of former clients.