SU Empowers Military Veterans & Families
He calls it a case of irony: Dr. Mike Haynie left the Air Force to teach, but he hasn’t stepped foot in a classroom as a professor for two years.
Instead, he has built the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) to support the military community in higher education.
“Syracuse University is the university it is today because of military veterans,” Haynie said. “Here, we are doing contemporary work to empower veterans, so we thought why not take a national role and create an academic institute focused solely on veterans and their families.”
His desire to help has put him in positions as the executive director of the IVMF and as the vice chancellor of veteran’s affairs at Syracuse University. With a scattered number of families who have a loved one serving, Haynie saw a need for stronger advocacy for veterans seeking an education.
Roughly 3.5 million U.S. citizens make up the 9/11 generation military personnel, according to statistics given by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Nov. 11, 2014.
“This generation of veterans, we’ve been at war for 12 years,” Haynie said. “It’s the longest sustained period of war in this country’s history.”
According to a 2011 Pew Research report, half of one percent of the U.S. population at any given time has served since 9/11. More than 70 percent of the public also reported not understanding what military families face.
Haynie and the IVMF have set a goal to change how that percentage of service members can succeed in jobs and with their families.
“I think what motivates me is to continue to push toward how we support and empower that tiny minority so that we can live up to our promise,” he said. “Today, there are fewer Americans actually focused on making sure we live up to that promise.”
Offering support through educational programs in all disciplines, connections for jobs and research to inform policy makers about military issues, the institute has started a national movement for veterans and military families, Haynie said. The program has worked with other universities such as Cornell, Texas A&M and Florida State University to build similar campus programs.
Haynie now helps SU Chancellor Kent Syverud’s with reconnecting SU to its military legacy.
After WWII, then Chancellor William Pearson Tolley invited any veteran to get an education at SU. The student population jumped by more than 10,000.
Haynie learned of the school’s history in 2006 when he started teaching entrepreneurship at the Whitman School of Management.
“My little hobby of helping veterans in the Whitman School had by then turned into more than a little hobby,” he said. “It got us thinking institutionally about Syracuse’s long history with veterans.”
Through a program he piloted called Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities, Haynie started to help veterans who struggled to work in regular jobs post-military.
“The logic is based on the idea that through self-employment you can craft a vocation for yourself,” he said. “ In a way, this might accommodate some barriers that you might face to traditional employment that might have to do with your disabilities.”
In 2009, the U.S. Small Business Administration reached out to Haynie for guidance building the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program. Several additional programs later, Haynie decided to seek out external sponsorship to build an umbrella institute: the IVMF.
Haynie said JPMorgan Chase immediately offered support, and has given roughly $1.5 million a year since 2011. Every dollar used at the institute comes from external funds, no student tuition dollars.
Ryan Rabac, an executive intern at IVMF, has worked with the institute as a part of obtaining his master’s degree in public administration. He said he started working with student veterans through his undergraduate fraternity at Florida State University.
“I became good friends with a lot of [veterans] and started to hear about the issues they were facing,” he said. “What we still need to do now is get the word out about the support that is here and show veterans that it is more than just institutional resources; it’s a community.”
At the IVMF, Rabac helps to nationally market the program to veterans transitioning from military to civilian life so they can know about the available higher education support.
“I’d like to see the community grow more and see other student organizations take up the call to make student veterans welcome,” Rabac said. “Once we start to build that community support more, it’s going to complement those resources.”
“Today, this institute is the fastest growing entity at Syracuse University,” he said. “At the end of the day, I know why I wake up every morning, I know why I come to work.”