Written by: James Schmeling
IVMF | Co-Founder. Managing Director, Programming.
This past year has been one of the most fulfilling years for me professionally with my evolving role at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. I stepped away from supervising our research team with the hire of Nick Armstrong as our Senior Director for Research, and we created the Community Engagement mission area, elevating my colleague Jim McDonough to Managing Director for Community Engagement. I stepped into the role of Managing Director for Programming, assuming responsibility for our EBV, EBV-Families, VWISE and Boots to Business Programs in addition to the work I already do with our Veterans Career Transition Program. I was able to do more teaching this year, sharing my expertise in human resources, diversity hiring and employment, supply chain diversity and more.
Perhaps the most rewarding single moment was when one of my former program participants sought me out to tell me that she had been really mad at me when I told her “Your business plans sucks.” I assured her I hadn’t said that, (she agreed I hadn’t used those words!), but reminded me that I had told her she needed to adjust her concept because her idea was not viable and would not earn the income she was seeking. I was disappointed at first, but then she told me that I had further discussed with her what other talents she had and was interested in applying as a business owner, that she had reluctantly adjusted her plan. She intended to earn around $30,000 working part time, and got started. Then she amazed me – she said she had instead earned $100,000 and wanted to thank me for my insights! I was ecstatic for her!
I had the opportunity to advise a Techstars startup company, to speak at the Veterans on Wall Street event at Goldman Sachs, to mentor 10 veteran entrepreneurs at the Techstars Patriot Bootcamp in New York city, to participate in USAA’s Social Media Exchange, and to work with amazing partners like Sam’s Club, Walmart, the Walmart Foundation, Citi, Newman’s Own Foundation, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Disabled American Veterans and many others to provide business plan competition prizes to our entrepreneurship program participants. And, I had countless opportunities to work with amazing partners across the country on programs for veterans and families, whether small niche programs or larger initiatives, as did many of my colleagues. I won’t name them all here, but I look forward to 2015 as a result of these new collaborations!
I had the great privilege of continuing to work with the 100,000 Jobs Mission. When I started collaborating with JPMorgan Chase & Co. on the amazing program a few years ago there were only 11 companies in the coalition. Now there are 175 companies who have collectively hired over 190,000 veterans! RAND just validated the work being done by the coalition in an excellent report, which interviewed member companies and even highlighted IVMF’s collaboration. I’m particularly proud of the leading practices work we’ve done for the 100,000 Jobs Mission in partnership with the TED Center at University College.
We expanded our programs with the Small Business Administration to include the Boots to Business program internationally, and we’ve provided training to over 1,250 transitioning servicemembers and family members in 93 overseas two-day workshops including in Bahrain, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, and Spain, with more locations to come in 2015. We’ve trained over 21,000 veterans in our programs this year in total with our partners from the SBA and regional SBDCs, WBDCs, VBOCs, and SCORE among others.
Perhaps the greatest privilege I have is to work with an amazing team, in an environment that values the work we do with and for veterans and their families, and I haven’t mentioned even half of what we do at IVMF. Chancellor Kent Syverud has included veterans in his vision for the university, with my boss Mike Haynie assuming this year the role Vice Chancellor for Military and Veteran Affairs and taking the opportunity to expand to the broader university, and I have an amazing professional team I work with every day. That team puts their hearts and souls into everything they do with veterans and families, promoting their opportunities for an outstanding post-service life. I’m proud of everything our team does, and so very lucky that I have the opportunity to participate in this work. We’ve done good in the world. And it feels like we’re just getting started!