In two separate studies, the IVMF, in collaboration with JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPMC) and the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and the Office of Military Affairs (OVMA), studied a community of schools and colleges supporting student veterans in higher education.
Both studies examined veteran support efforts in higher education. The goal was to find out what the schools were doing in regard to veteran recruitment, and to further develop a list of best practices that higher education schools across the country could adopt in establishing and maintaining a “veteran-friendly” campus. A “veteran-friendly” school is defined as an environment fostering an institutional culture that is supportive, appreciative, respectful, embracing, and inclusive of the veterans it educates, thus engaging veterans in their education and growth toward a new career in civilian life.
The first study, titled Advancing Veteran Success in Higher Education Case Highlights of Veteran-Friendly Programs at Professional Schools at Syracuse University, was administered through a grant from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), led by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and in collaboration with the Office of Military Affairs (OVMA). The purpose of the study was to explore the process of becoming more veteran-friendly. The study assessed five schools on the Syracuse University campus. These schools included Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Martin J. Whitman School of Management, L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, School of Information Studies, and David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics.
The research team conducted interviews with representatives from each school and looked at programs offered, current policies and practices, challenges, successes, and next steps to developing and implementing veteran-friendly programs for graduate degrees. “This effort, under GMAC’s support enabled us to explore opportunities to accelerate graduate management degrees and continuously make our programs veteran friendly,” says Mirza Tihic, Assistant Director at the OVMA. After analysis, the data revealed that many of the schools had similar struggles as well as strengths when it came to building a veteran-friendly environment. Tihic, who worked closely with the research, says, that along with the campus climate, “the goal of the study was to share the best practices and tools with other universities, thus, increasing the number of veterans who may benefit from it.”
Some of the key best practices included financial incentives, efforts to encourage inclusion, the use of online and hybrid courses, along with developing relevant course content, an open door policy and collaboration between departments and schools.
The second study titled, Advancing Veteran Success in Higher Education: Case Studies of Student Veteran Support Programs at San Diego State University, the University of Texas-Arlington, the University of South Florida, and Florida State College Jacksonville, was a project, supported by four grants from JPMC in collaboration with IVMF. The study evaluated key objectives leading to or hindering student-veteran program performance. Key outcomes studied included, student entry and retention, academic performance and interviews, internships, and successfully finding employment.
“Veterans encounter a number of challenges transitioning to four year colleges and universities, from navigating the registration process to selecting courses and immersing themselves in an environment where they bring different backgrounds and life experiences than many of their student peers,” says Zachary Huitink, IVMF Research Associate. Huitink, who served as lead researcher says, “this assessment should aid other educational institutions, as well as funders and community stakeholders, in incorporating best practices and anticipating challenges in order to maximize the chance of success with their own student veteran support programs.”
The project found that all of the programs made a number of positive impacts on veteran academic performance, including access to campus and community resources, skills training and employment opportunities. The research also identified challenges with personnel turnover, sustainability, and integration with existing on-campus services and supports. Based on the programs’ achievements, challenges, and lessons learned, the results have been formulated into a list that can be utilized by college and university administrators interested in establishing or growing student veteran-support programs; funders, interested in veteran higher education and initiative; and the research community, interested in promoting student veteran success in the college and university environment.
The full reports, infographics and executive summaries can be viewed at vets.syr.edu/research/highered/leadingpracticebriefs.
Linda Rougeau Euto, Associate Director of Research & Evaluation at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, 315.247.9101, firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF)
The IVMF is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education, and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Through the focus on veterans programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement, the Institute provides in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community, captures best practices, and serves as a forum to facilitate new partnerships and strong relationships between the individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for veterans and military families.