Our History Informing Our Future

At the start of World War II, Syracuse University was a small teaching college serving a student body of approximately 5,000 students.  As the end of the war approached, Syracuse University Chancellor William Tolley was asked by President Roosevelt to serve as a member of a small group of college and university leaders, tasked with creating what would ultimately become the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 – more commonly known as the GI Bill. Today most historians assert that the GI Bill is among the most important legislative acts in the history of this country, as the legislation played a key role in positioning the U.S. as a technological superpower throughout the 21st century.

“The competence of this place (Syracuse University) makes it a preferred partner. You’ve been committed for a long time. you were way out in front in the early post-WWII years and soAshton Carter portrait there’s a level of commitment and sophistication to the thinking here that we really need, an intellectual basis, that we get from a place that knows how to couple training with scholarship with action…and there is just no other place that does it like Syracuse.”

– The Honorable Ashton Carter 25th US Secretary of Defense

Chancellor Tolley, and therefore, Syracuse University embraced the opportunity to open the doors of higher education to the nation’s returning veterans – bringing more than 10,000 veterans to our campus as students, in the years following the end of the war.  No school in New York State welcomed more returning veterans to campus than did Syracuse University.

In the 70+ years since the end of WWII, Syracuse University’s connection to the veteran- and military-connected community has remained strong, robust, and central to our identity.  For example:

  • For the past 60 years, Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management and Maxwell School of Citizenship have been home to the Defense Comptroller Program (DCP), training the leadership of the DoD’s financial management community.
  • For more than 50 years, Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications has been the home to the DoD’s School of Military Photo-Journalism.
  • For more than 20 years, Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship has been home to the National Security Studies Program, training senior military leaders (General Officers and Senior Executive Service) in the fundamentals of global security.
  • Founded in 1918, Syracuse University is home to the oldest, continuously operating Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in all of America.
  • Syracuse University is home to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), nation’s first interdisciplinary academic focused solely on the social, economic, and wellness concerns of the nation’s 22.5 million veterans.
  • Syracuse University is home (Law & Maxwell) to the Institute for National Security and Counter-Terrorism (INSCT), one of the nation’s leading academic institutes focused on interdisciplinary research, teaching, public service, and policy analysis in the fields of national and international security and counterterrorism.

In summary, Syracuse University’s past and present connection to the veteran- and military-connected community is not only central to our identity; it’s also one of the institution’s most rare, valuable, and differentiating resources.

Our Past and Present, as a Future Opportunity

When Chancellor Kent Syverud arrived in 2014, he recognized the University’s past and present engagement with the veteran- and military-connected community as a rare, valuable, and differentiating resource – one that could potentially seed the conditions for future-focused opportunity at Syracuse University.  It’s for this reason that at his inauguration, Chancellor Syverud announced that one of his strategic priorities is to seed and cultivate programs, policies, and innovative initiatives positioned to create Syracuse University as a national hub of thought leadership, research, and programming related to engaging the nation’s servicemembers, veterans, and their families.

This focus was incorporated into the University’s academic strategic planning process last year, in the form of a workgroup of faculty, staff and students tasked with investigating and informing future-focused opportunity connected to the University’s past and present engagement with the veteran- and military-connected community.

More than all of that, it also became clear that today’s generation of great American universities – and great university leaders – will be defined and redefined based on the choices they make positioned to engage those men and women who have worn the cloth of the nation during this time of war.  Specifically, the best will enact the conditions where our veterans can serve us yet again; that is, conditions that empower them as students, employees, leaders, and as alumni, to elevate themselves AND their academic institutions as national leaders in the pursuit of social and economic prosperity for the next century.

This is why Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud has made a commitment to veterans a central focus of his vision for the future: as he stated at his inauguration, “if we do this, we will have done so much for our university, for this country, and for our veterans.” Importantly we make this commitment not from a place of obligation, but instead because we know engaging our nation’s veterans will make Syracuse University better, and in turn we can help them, quite literally, change the world.