OVMA Staff

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

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

Prior to joining Syracuse University, Ron served over 32 years of active duty service in the U.S. Army with five combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and retired as a Colonel. He enlisted into the Army in 1982, served in Belgium and France, and achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSG) before attending Officer Candidate School (OCS) in 1990. After he graduated from OCS at Fort Benning, GA, Ron was commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer in the branch detail program and became a Quartermaster Officer in 1992.

His command positions included Headquarters and Alpha Company, 407th Forward Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC; Supply and Services Troop Commander, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne), Fort Bragg, NC, and the 10th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, NY with a 15-month deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 07-09. He also commanded the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, GA for 27-months, which included a nine month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) 12-13.

Novack’s other leadership and staff positions included Company Fire Support Officer in Charlie Company, 3-187 Infantry Battalion (Rakkasan) during Operation Desert Shield and Storm; Logistics Officer, 3rd Battalion 320th Field Artillery Regiment; Supply Platoon Leader and Company Executive Officer 227th Supply Company,  129th Corps Support Battalion; Aide-de-Camp to the Assistant Division Commander for Support, and the Supply and Services Officer, Division G4 all in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, KY. He served as the Battalion S3 in the 407th Forward Support Battalion, 82d Airborne Division and as the Senior Supply Company Observer/Controller at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), Fort Polk, LA.

His field grade staff positions included serving as the Support Operations Officer in the 210th Forward Support Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, supporting Coalition Joint Task Force (CJTF) – Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan; Battalion Executive Officer of the 10th Forward Support Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, during Operation Enduring Freedom IV in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Brigade Executive Officer of the 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, NY. Ron served as the Joint Logistics Exercise Planner and as the Chief, J4 Logistics Plans Branch, in the Logistics, Engineering, and Security Assistance Directorate – J4, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), Camp H.M. Smith, HI.  After battalion command, he became the 10th Mountain Division G4.  Ron’s last assignment prior to his retirement was as the Deputy Commander, Capabilities Development, and Integration (CDI), Fort Lee, VA.

Novack is a graduate from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Management, and he holds an MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and an M.S. in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University.   He is also an Afghanistan/Pakistan (AFPAK) Hands Fellow.  Novack’s military education includes the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, Quartermaster Transition Course, Combined Logistics Officer Advanced Course, Command and General Staff Officer Course, Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF), Parachute Rigger Course, Airborne, Air Assault, Pathfinder, and Jumpmaster Courses.

He has received numerous awards and decorations for his service to include the Legion of Merit (w/1OLC), Bronze Star (w/3OLC),  Defense Meritorious Service Medal (w/1OLC), Meritorious Service Medal (w/4OLC), Joint Service Commendation Medal (w/1OLC), Army Commendation Medal (w/1OLC), Joint Service Achievement Medal (w/1OLC), Army Achievement Medal (w/1OLC), Southwest Asia Service Medal (two bronze service stars), NATO Medal – Afghanistan, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (two combat stars), Iraq Campaign Medal (combat star), Combat Action Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Air Assault Badge, Parachute Rigger Badge, and German Parachutist Wings.  Ron is also a 2015 inductee into the Officer Candidate School (OCS) Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, GA.


Mirza Tihic

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

Mirza TihicMirza Tihic is the Program 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 Coordinator (lewhitmi@syr.edu)

Lauren Pyland Portrait

Lauren Pyland is the Operations Coordinator 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.

Prior to joining the OVMA, Pyland was the Activities Coordinator for an Assisted Living facility in Baldwinsville, New York. In this position she was responsible for coordinating all events and activities in the facility, maintaining a full monthly schedule in addition to a monthly newsletter and weekly blogs.

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. As a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves, she currently serves as a Disbursing Officer in the 374th Financial Management Support Unit in New Cumberland, PA.


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.


Daniel Czajak

Assistant Director, Veteran & Military Admissions (djczajak@syr.edu)

Dan Czajak Portrait

Dan Czajak is Assistant Director for Veteran and Military Admissions. His role caters to the unique needs of prospective and incoming students from military backgrounds, including military family members. Dan is charged with expanding recruitment efforts to boost veteran and military enrollment. A liaison to all colleges and academic programs, he serves as a marketing and communications adviser and contributor. Dan is one of two dedicated admissions counselors for military-affiliated students.

A Syracuse alumnus, Dan earned his bachelor’s degree in History and Psychology in 2004 and commissioned into the Air Force through the university’s ROTC program. He began his active duty career as a management analyst and consultant determining manpower requirements. He later transferred to the Army and served as a staff officer for personnel management and administration. During that time, Dan deployed to Iraq for a fifteen-month tour. More recently, he served in the Army Reserve, completing the Army’s chaplain training in 2013. Dan holds a master’s degree in theology from Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, MD.