Sustainable Leaders Syracuse veterans Driving Social Climate Change

Syracuse is known for its environmental activism, having cleaned up one of the most polluted lakes in the world, but it will likely be remembered for another type of sustainability: a kind of social climate change. That change is being enacted by military veterans who are easing the transition back to civilian life for their brothers and sisters-in-arms. Many veterans lose their support network when they leave service. Harnessing the power of supportive connections is timely and important if veterans are to thrive in a civilian-centered world. Service members are re-entering civilian spaces in Syracuse with skills that make them 'sustainable leaders.' The health of a society can be improved by any community member positively connected, selflessly ambitious, and generously knowledgeable -- enough to serve others.

Syracuse University views
"Now, go recruit your replacement." Col. Joseph R. Novack Jr. (Ret.)

These are wise words often repeated by 10th Mountain Army battalion-commander Col. Ron Novack Jr. (Ret.). He currently serves as the executive director of the Office of Veterans and Military Affairs, a vet-centered initiative at Syracuse University, which was ranked the nation's top private college for student veterans by the Military Times. In the Army, soldiers stand guard at their posts until another soldier arrives to properly relieve them. They conserve efforts and continue movement as a team towards an objective. Once reached, soldiers maintain that objective as they gather force to sustain another advancement. No one falls behind. None is forgotten.

View from Hanover Square, Syracuse, NY

Mike Erwin, an Army veteran and the founder of Team Red White and Blue, uses positive psychology to enrich the lives of America’s veterans. RWB is actively engaging some otherwise isolated Americans by welcoming civilians, families, and even service dogs to its events. It is self-sustaining: members are individually responsible for its value as a social venture. Now that RWB leadership is in place to maintain its efforts, Erwin is conducting another effort. The Positivity Project, P2, explores character strengths like perseverance and integrity in America's schools, enriching public education by inviting classrooms to participate in interactive discussion as one student body. P2 will encourage unity among America's children as they identify and respect the similarities and differences of their peers. Syracuse is home-base for Erwin, author of Lead Yourself First and C.E.O. of the Character & Leadership Center. His inspirational work reveals a strength in creating and advancing positive thinking in social networks.

Team RWB Syracuse Leadership at the VanKeuren Square Home for Veterans, East Genesee St., Syracuse, NY

Navy veteran and Syracuse University alumnus Jared Lyon is president of Student Veterans of America, which offers resources for military-affiliated students. The organization's chapters are writing business plans to build club lounges, gathering resources, volunteering at local service organizations, and planning social events (club membership is not limited to veterans). SVA's mission encourages the use of supportive networking skills that veterans learned while they were in military service. Student veterans nationwide are fostering social climate change in a wide variety of leadership roles: as presidents, doctors, artists, lawyers, designers, counselors, engineers, accountants, entrepreneurs, politicians, advocates and many others.

American flag on display in the IVMF conference room, zoomed in to reveal the texture of each stitch and cord

Air Force veteran, Dr. Mike Haynie, founded the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), which offers power to those who've served. That power is knowledge gained through educational training programs that are backed by the wisdom of a world-class private institution, Syracuse University, and the continued generosity of JPMorgan Chase & Co., a founding partner that values the investment in people who volunteer service. The IVMF is bridging the military-civilian divide in academic, political, and corporate America, providing veterans with industry connections and assuring those companies that the IVMF program graduates they hire will be experienced.

IVMF/OVMA, near the Syracuse University Dome, Falk College

Without losing focus on IVMF's supporters and portfolio of programs and research, Dr. Haynie also serves as vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation at Syracuse University. The Campus Framework plans to build an environmentally responsible National Veteran's Resource Complex (NVRC) to house military-affiliated groups in a shared space at S.U. The NVRC is envisioned as a silver-certified LEED building. It's still in the schematic design phase of the project, but its ultimate goal is to engage people by eliminating perceptual barriers, encouraging openness, and welcoming new interactions.

NVRC model, side view
"The IVMF has national reach which will of course trickle down to local Vets indirectly...what they do can ultimately affect our community" Earl Fontenot

The IVMF shares its supportive social connections with other veteran service organizations, like Team RWB and SVA, because each offers unique programs of opportunity to veterans. There is no room for competition in this socially supportive, national network, only collaborative teamwork and partnerships exist among these sustainable leaders.

Forman Park Fence line, East Genesee St. Syracuse, NY

Army veteran Earl Fontenot is a gradute of IVMF's entrepreneurship boot camp program (EBV) for veterans with disabilities and a student of creative leadership at S.U. He also serves as chief strategic officer of Clear Path for Veterans, just outside Syracuse. With individualized programs, a supportive staff, and dedicated volunteers, CPV offers a sense of home to veterans and military families across counties and generations of service. American veterans and their families will never be alone or hungry on Thanksgiving Day at Clear Path.

Clear Path For Veterans, Chittenango, NY

Steadily gaining support, Clear Path for Veterans has recently expanded to Binghamton while maintaining its original location in Chittenango. If it grows to become a nationwide organization like RWB, SVA, or IVMF, CPV will make a significant contribution, building a larger network which feels like home to veterans and civilians alike and encouraging voluntary participation in support of those who've served. Hopefully, they'll find a vacant space in the NVRC once it's built.

NVRC model, IVMF entryway, Falk College
"At the end of the day, the NVRC has a social mission" Mike Haynie, PhD

It's a place where experienced student veterans can have impact-full conversations with future leaders of the military, cadets of the Army and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

IVMF entryway: Puma Sunshine, author of Ignore Me: A letter to the public about service dog etiquette

It's a space where interested civilians can, by volunteering, join forces with veterans who have helped preserve the rights and privileges of being an American.

IVMF conference room display

The NVRC is a symbol of opportunity for veterans who return home to assess their "separated" quality of life.

Memorials of a Fallen Soldier, Clear Path for Veterans
NVRC flow chart
"It won't just happen, you have to put yourself out there; know what you want to do. Know your value." Halston Canty

A graduate student and veteran of the Navy who is studying social work at the Syracuse University Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, Halston Canty is also an active inspiration to the next generation of inner-city Syracuse youth. He serves as a Journey to Manhood mentor at the Southwest Community Center, offering individual guidance in setting and achieving life-goals so they can have a chance of realizing their dreams.

SHoP Architectural Model: National Veterans' Resource Complex
“Strength and struggle go together. The supreme reward of struggle is strength. Life is a battle and the greatest joy is to overcome. The pursuit of easy things makes men weak. Do not equip yourselves with superior power and hope to escape the responsibility and work. It cannot be done. It is following the path of least resistance that makes rivers and men crooked.” Ralph Parlette, 1870-1930

United strength is the backbone of sustainable leadership, born of a selflessness lived out by members of the Armed Forces' community, backed with accountability and trusted in its support.

Statue outside of the iSchool, from the quad facing Schine and Bird Library

Sustainable leaders practice listening as much as they speak.

Strategic location of NVRC, just steps outside of Marshall Street on Waverly Ave, Syracuse, NY
"A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society." Thomas Jefferson, 1792
View from Clinton Square, Syracuse, NY

At the heart of Syracuse, a kind of social climate change is taking place. It is guided by veterans who, through their leadership, display selflessness in building social support for other veterans, combining networks that were once separated, and overcoming the civilian-military divide in American society.

Lincoln statue with Tolley and Eggers Hall, Syracuse University campus
"Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored." Abraham Lincoln, 1838
Statue of Abraham Lincoln, looking out upon the future NVRC site on campus, Syracuse University

"Old Glory"
Created By
Ginger Peterman

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