Music City Welcomes 16th Annual Conference for Student Veterans

Before the start of the spring semester, members of Syracuse University’s military-connected community, including students, faculty and staff, journeyed to Tennessee for the 16th Annual Student Veterans of America (SVA) National Conference (NATCON).

This year, the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs sponsored 13 student veterans to attend NATCON in Nasveville to include conference admission, lodging, and travel, a gesture made possible by the generosity of Veteran Legacy Fund donors.

According to U.S. Navy veteran John Nipper ’22, G’23, who serves as the president of the Student Veterans Organization, the event proved to be an outstanding success.

“The conference provided a plethora of sensational job opportunities and unparalleled networking experiences with industry giant,s such as EY, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and more,” says Nipper, a graduate student in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

As a chapter of the SVA, the Student Veterans Organization plays a crucial role in keeping its members informed about G.I. Bill benefits and the latest educational opportunities available to veterans nationwide.

In addition to the student veterans, Syracuse University is well-represented by faculty and staff at NATCON each year. The D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families consistently sends staff to NATCON, contributing valuable research briefs on current issues impacting student veterans, military families and service members today.

Rosalinda Maury, the director of applied research at the IVMF, expressed the significance of presenting at the SVA National Conference. “It was a profound opportunity to highlight the critical research conducted here at Syracuse University. It’s a testament to our commitment to enhancing the lives of veterans through education and entrepreneurship,” Maury says.

Maury, alongside other research staff from the IVMF, engaged in several presentations in Nashville, covering topics from the basics of entrepreneurship for veterans to veteran employment trends. In some instances, they were joined by veterans from the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs.

Staff members from the D’Aniello Institute’s Research and Analytics team presenting research data pertaining to student veterans during the 16th Annual SVA NATCON.

“Representing Syracuse University at the national conference each year is truly a rewarding experience. This university is well known for its historic commitment to veterans, and that shows in our presence at NATCON each year,” says Dwayne Murray, the OVMA’s deputy director and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel.

Murray also participated in presentations with the IVMF’s Linda Euto and Corrinne Zoli. The three spoke about navigating student veteran experiences in higher education and how to foster a community of belonging for military-connected students.

Moreover, attendees had the privilege of hearing from the conference’s keynote speaker, Merryl Tengesdal, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who holds the distinction of being the first black woman to break the sound barrier in the SR-71 Blackbird. Tengesdal, who also spoke at the IVMF’s Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship conference in Jacksonville, Florida, last year, often shares her experiences of overcoming diversity as a black woman in the Air Force prior to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

NATCON not only offers valuable professional insights but also serves as an opportunity to explore a new parts of the country. Participants from Syracuse University enjoyed an evening at the Grand Ole Opry house, where they were treated to performances by various musicians, including Syracuse native Tony Trischka, a banjo player who began his music career in the early 60s and has since become an influential figure in the Bluegrass music scene.

Overall, the three-day 16th Annual SVA National Conference in Nashville was an enriching experience for Syracuse University’s military-connected community, providing a platform for professional growth, meaningful connections and a celebration of the spirit of entrepreneurship and resilience among our nation’s veterans.

As participants return to classes, the echoes of inspiration and camaraderie will undoubtedly resonate, fostering a supportive community of success at Syracuse University that will continue to make it “the best place for veterans.”