OVMA’s Kari Mickinkle Named a National Leader in Veterans’ Education

Kari Mickinkle ‘11, G’22, a school certifying official with the Office of Veteran Success in the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA), has been appointed vice president of the Association of Veterans Education Certifying Officials (AVECO).

kari mickinkle
Kari Mickinkle 11, G’22, a school certifying official with the Office of Veterans Success, assists a student veteran during the 2023 Office of Veteran and Military Affairs Fall Orientation for new military-connected students.

“It’s basically a nationwide association that brings certifying officials together to educate them,” says Mickinkle, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps after earning her undergraduate degree. “It’s not affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs; we work very closely with them, but they don’t fund our activities.”

Syracuse University employs at least three full-time staff members whose primary purpose is ensuring military-connected students receive their educational benefits without interruption to their academic goals. That small team plays a crucial role in the University’s success with consistently ranking among the top colleges and universities for veterans’ education.

According to Keith Doss, director of the Office of Veteran Success where Mickinkle and the other school certifying officials work, the role of certifying officials is imperative to veterans successfully navigating the complex administrative requirements between colleges and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The importance of AVECO cannot be understated. They coordinate conferences and events that are key to our school certifying officials’ success, which, in turn, leads to the success of our military-connected students,” says Doss, a retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer. “The collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs and schools across the country is imperative, and AVECO helps cut through the red tape when understanding, and ultimately processing, VA education benefits.”

Mickinkle will assume the duties as AVECO’s vice president in addition to her work at Syracuse. Since first becoming involved with AVECO, she has done a lot of networking and attended conferences. There,  she’s been able to discuss current issues regarding changes to G.I. Bill benefits and learned how other schools are tackling the issues arising from changes in legislation regarding educational benefits for veterans.

“As Congress votes on bills pertaining to education benefits for veterans, those decisions are then handed over to the Department of Veterans Affairs to interpret. They then pass down their own understanding of the legislation, and sometimes different schools can walk away with different understandings. AVECO helps alleviate that issue,” says Mickinkle.

According to Mickinkle, one of the biggest advantages is being able to network with school certifying officials across the nation, whether it’s a serious question or just someone to bounce ideas off of.

“It’s helpful to have other people who know about the things you’re going through and the problems you’re having,” says Mickinkle.

Having a school certifying official who is also a national leader in the field will have a tremendous impact on the military-connected students at Syracuse University. Mickinkle says that the key thing that can make her job easier, and the jobs of other certifying officials, is timely communication.

Mickinkle and other staff members from OVMA will be on hand at the official welcome and orientation event held for military-connected students on Jan. 12. Those eligible students who are interested in attending can find more information on the Syracuse University Events website.