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Public Affairs Schools Seek Ways to Serve Those Who Have Served

News Type College News
By Joan Slattery Wall 

After serving nine years in the U.S. Army Reserve as an enlisted soldier, Christian Schafer works as an Ohio State undergraduate admissions counselor helping transfer, military-connected and veteran students. 

“My passion for working in public service comes from knowing how the work I do impacts lives in a positive manner,” he says. “I know my work has meaning and is important to moving society forward. It is my belief that public service and education are intrinsically tied together.”  

This fall, he began pursuing an in-career master of arts degree in public policy and management at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs with a goal of working in an administrative managerial role at Ohio State. 

In the Army, Schafer helped maintain and operate military vehicles in two medical units, the 256th Support Combat Hospital located in Sharonville, Ohio, and the 676th Ground Ambulance Company located out of Fort Ben Harrison located in Indianapolis. Working in the public sector, he said, fulfills a sense of purpose that so often drives veterans and military-connected students. 

The Glenn College, in collaboration with the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, offers a Certificate in Public and Nonprofit Leadership for Veterans program for veterans, individuals about to leave the military or individuals who work with veterans to translate military experience into civilian success. Applications for the program, which includes six hours of graduate credit from Ohio State, are due Nov. 11 for spring semester 2023.

Hoping to serve more students like Schafer, the John Glenn College of Public Affairs is launching a conversation with peer schools across the nation and the National Veterans Leadership Foundation to explore ways to attract military and military-connected students to enroll in graduate professional degree programs.

“That population has demonstrated public service through military service, and they would be wonderful additions to our programs and alumni base,” Dean Trevor Brown said, “but the diagnosis is they dont come to our programs at the level demonstrated by their public service. Part of it is we havent asked.”

 

According to Student Veterans of America, public administration and social service rank low among the fields in which the post-9/11 GI Bill has helped veterans earn degrees. Among the highest: business; health; liberal arts and sciences; homeland security, law enforcement and firefighting; and computer and information sciences. 

“We are losing this voice in public-service organizations and elected office as veterans self-select out for whatever reason,” said retired Air Force Col. Mike Carrell, vice president of strategy and university engagement for the National Veterans Leadership Foundation, a nonprofit organization that partners with U.S. universities to advance the future of our nation’s heroes.

Historically and statistically, veterans are more involved with their communities, with volunteer service, and can often be the voice of caution in making foreign policy commitments.

Air Force Col. Mike Carrell (ret.)
Vice President, Strategy and University Engagement, National Veterans Leadership Foundation

“This current generation of veterans is deeply steeped in civilian-military relations and has more experience in areas that historically have been the state department’s realm — nation-building type activities like setting up schools, utilities, courts, commerce, negotiation and even developing, monitoring and protecting political systems — than even Department of State employees often,” said Carrell, who launched Ohio State’s Military and Veteran’s Office. 

Four public policy schools — at Indiana University - Bloomington, Cornell University, Texas A&M University and Syracuse University — are joining the Glenn College and the National Veteran Leadership Foundation in identifying pathways to make the public affairs field more attractive and accessible to these students. In October, the school leaders are convening a panel, “Recruiting and Including Military and Military-Connected Students in Public Affairs, Administration, and Policy Programs,” at the 2022 Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) conference. 

Jim Miller, president of the National Veterans Leadership Foundation, and Carrell said efforts public affairs schools could take to attract more students include expanding relationships with public sector employers likely to value the skills they gained in the military; developing internships and programs that include compensation to support veterans and their families; include faculty, staff and alumni with military backgrounds in the effort;  and creating a long list of the types of jobs they could qualify for with a public policy degree. 

Col. Barney Barnum (right) was inducted into the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame after he was nominated by Lt. Col. Carl Ey, ret., (left).

Lt. Col. Carl Ey (ret.) enrolled this fall in the Glenn College master of public administration program.

“This is a renowned degree, and after many years of being a communications practitioner, the MPA degree adds credibility to my resume,” Ey said. “Additionally, as arguably the oldest student in the 2022 cohort, I will remind my fellow classmates that it is never too late to continue educating yourself.”

Having served in the Army as a signal officer and later as a public affairs officer with the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of the Army, he had several deployments and served as a communications officer at the Pentagon on 9/11. He now owns Mammoth Global Partners, Inc., a verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business concentrating in providing communications services for smaller military, veteran and first responder foundations and charities.

 

Veterans’ tracts that allow credits for service members’ previous experience, as well as executive programs at the master’s and doctorate levels, he suggested, would attract veterans to public affairs schools.

“Many of my peers both enlisted and officer in the public affairs field have some fabulous practical experience that is above the undergraduate level and should transfer nicely into a graduate program,” Ey said.

In addition to its professional graduate degrees that could interest veterans, the Glenn College, in collaboration with the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, offers a Certificate in Public and Nonprofit Leadership for Veterans program for veterans, individuals about to leave the military or individuals who work with veterans to translate military experience into civilian success.

Ohio State’s long-standing commitment to the military community on campus includes peer and advocate programs — which have served as models for other U.S. universities who are adopting the practices — to help incoming student veterans and service members transition from the military to the university environment. On May 26, Gov. Mike DeWine presented Ohio State, which has more than 2,000 veteran and active duty or military-connected students, with the state’s new Collegiate Purple Star. The designation recognizes public and independent colleges and universities in Ohio that are supportive and inclusive of military-connected students.