CU ramps up efforts to attract, support military veterans

Nancy Doolittle
Decorated Veteran at Sage Chapel

Unlike many of its Ivy League peers, Cornell has had a continuing military presence on campus through its Department of Military Science and Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). Most recently, the university has attracted veterans to its educational programs through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon program.

Now, with the war ending in Afghanistan and the university’s renewed commitment to diversity and inclusion through its planning initiative “Toward New Destinations,” Cornell is ramping up its recruitment efforts to attract veterans not only as students, but also as staff and faculty members.

In September, these efforts were acknowledged by the Families and Work Institute, which recognized Cornell for the university’s “promising practices” in supporting military service men and women transitioning into the civilian workplace and their families.

The honor acknowledged Cornell’s benefits, policies and workplace programs that help attract military talent, including Cornell’s military leaves of absence policy, its employee educational benefits, and the resources and networking services available to veterans working at Cornell.

“Over the past two years, Cornell has had about 350 faculty and staff members who have voluntarily self-identified as veterans,” says Lynette Chappell-Williams, associate vice president in the Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity (DIWD). “There are likely other veterans who have not officially identified their veteran status,” she says.

To recruit veterans to Cornell, representatives from the university have recently participated in two career fairs, says Davine Bey, manager of talent acquisition in Cornell’s Recruitment and Employment Center (REC): the Army and Career Alumni Program Career Fair at Fort Drum, N.Y., Nov. 1, which attracted about 300 veterans and soldiers transitioning to civilian life; and, for the fourth time, the “Be a Hero/Hire a Hero Veteran’s Career Expo” held in New York City Nov. 5, which drew about 2,000 recruiters and job-seeking veterans.

Recruiters, transitioning soldiers and veterans alike face the challenge of understanding how skills learned in the military translate to civilian positions, Bey says. Also, he says, certain myths about veterans need to be “debunked,” such as that all veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or that the disorder will interfere with fulfilling work responsibilities.

To meet those challenges, Capt. Daniel Weed, professor of naval science and retired commanding officer of Cornell’s Naval ROTC, has partnered with REC, DIWD and Cornell’s Veterans Colleague Network Group (VCNG) – a group with about 20 active members who meet in-person on a monthly basis and with more than 300 on their e-list – to help hiring managers identify such transferable skills as perseverance; analytic, leadership and communication skills; the ability to manage time and multitask; and the ability to work in teams.

The VCNG, working with Cornell’s Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, also has identified, for referral purposes, local counselors trained in PTSD and other military experiences.

Several recent events have focused on hiring and supporting veterans in the workplace. Paula A. Lichvar, director of the N.Y. State Veterans Ombudsman office, highlighted the “business case” for hiring military personnel and the transferable skills veterans offer to the workplace in a presentation to Cornell’s human resource professionals in October.

Also in October, the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities was held at Cornell. On Nov. 12, Hannah Rudstam, senior extension associate for the Employment Disability Institute, is presenting “Heroes at Work: Unique Issues in Hiring and Accommodating Veterans with Disabilities” at Cornell’s Diversity Update Conference.

A military community website,, for veterans and military personnel offers relevant news, services and resources at Cornell and in the area.

Davine Bey, manager of talent acquisition in Cornell’s Recruitment and Employmen
Davine Bey, manager of talent acquisition in Cornell’s Recruitment and Employment Center (REC).