The Middlebury Institute community celebrated the service of current students, alumni, staff, faculty and friends with a Veterans Day Barbeque and Open House for the new campus Veterans Center. The event was hosted by the MIIS Veterans Organization led by Justin Loza MPA ’17 and featured special guests Lt. Gen. (ret.) Robert Gard (Institute President Emeritus) and Congressman-elect Jimmy Panetta, also a veteran.
Among current students at the Institute, close to 60 are either active duty military or military veterans. Last year, the Institute established a Veterans Center on Pacific Street to serve as a space to study, socialize and to use business resources for career development. “It is a great place to study, especially for someone who has four kids at home,” says Shawn Spears MANPTS ’17 with a smile. The center has already become a great hub of activity, says Loza, who along with his leadership team is working hard to establish the MIIS Veterans Organization “as a world-class student veteran club trusted by veterans and club collaborators for visionary club leadership, commitment to excellence in activities, and engaged members.”
The Veterans Organization places particular emphasis on professional development for members, creating opportunities for them to achieve their academic goals and increase overall competitiveness in the workforce. “While we are serving, we are gaining very important skills, but the focus on personal growth is not really there,” says Loza. He and Spears say that one of the disadvantages that veterans have upon leaving service and entering the civilian workforce is that most haven’t spent a lot of time networking or building a professional network through personal experiences such as internships and summer jobs. “It is important to recognize the diversity of the veteran experience.”
In addition, “it’s important to make the most of your time in graduate school,” Loza says, “and to remember that all your experiences are what you make of them.” The Veterans Organization supports veterans with funding for participation in conferences, workshops, and other professional networking. They are very appreciative of the support they get from the administration at the Institute. Next spring the Organization will be hosting a golf tournament to raise funds for veteran professional development and scholarships.