UNC Veterans Summit
Monday, November 13, 2017
2017 UNC Veterans Summit Captures Student Experiences on Campuses, Pledges to Close the Information Gap
To celebrate Veterans Day and student veterans, the University of North Carolina System hosted its first 2017 Veterans Summit, Monday, Nov. 13, in Chapel Hill, NC. Panelists included student veterans, administrators, industry leaders and NC lawmakers – all who shared their unique experiences and examined the need to provide additional support for services that enhanced the student veteran experiences on the campuses and in the workforce.
Panelists discussed ways to recruit more veterans and military-affiliated students to the UNC institutions and alumni veteran mentors. They also discussed aligning the credit transfer process and bridging the gap between faculty and student veterans. Industry leaders offered insight into the skills needed in today’s work place and ways to better prepare student veterans for the transition.
Retired Army Lieutenant General Rick Lynch, the keynote speaker, reminded the audience of the valuable services that veterans and servicemen provide to our nation and to our institutions. He urged administrators to continue investing in student veterans and help to develop the necessary skills for them to succeed.
In closing remarks, UNC President Margaret Spellings said, “We must listen to our students and leaders on the ground. We heard today about strong partnerships between student veteran groups and administrators that make both groups stronger advocates and stronger resources for our students.” She thanked student leaders who participated in the summit for sharing their unique experiences and valuable suggestions.
Watch the 2017 UNC Veterans Summit via links below.
Watch archives of the livestream on the UNC-TV website.
Masters of Ceremonies: Jim Holmes and Steve Long, UNC Board of Governors
Welcome Remarks by President Margaret Spellings
Keynote: Lieutenant General (Ret.) Rick Lynch
Closing Remarks, and Summation: President Margaret Spellings
Retired Army Lieutenant General Rick Lynch
With 34 years in the US Army at his heel, Lieutenant General Rick Lynch has distinguished himself as an exceptional leader and strategist through his chameleon-like ability to adapt to change despite the most challenging obstacles. From surmounting his parents’ inability to pay for college by gaining entry to West Point to leading “The Surge” in Iraq as Army General with only six weeks to prepare, Lieutenant General Lynch has constructed a disciplined and effective mantra for success, which he shares with audiences across the country today.
From company (about 100 soldiers) to corps (about 65,000 soldiers) to the head of all US Army installations, Lynch steadily climbed his way up, eventually commanding at all levels. Matching the professional acumen of established business leaders, he was responsible for managing all the installations in the US Army with an annual budget of $12 billion and a workforce of 120,000. Combining this impeccable work ethic with an open heart, he also effectively lowered divorce and suicide rates at Fort Hood, Texas, by outlawing weekend work and mandating soldier family time.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio, Lynch attended West Point where he ranked in the top 5% of his class. He was then commissioned as a regular army engineer officer in command of both a combat engineer company and a mobile assault bridge company in the 17th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Division. He obtained his MA in mechanical engineering with a concentration in robotics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1985. As colonel, he commanded the army’s first ever Digital Brigade, which emphasized the use of advanced technologies in combat—and which would become essential on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Most recently, his positions as Commanding General of the Army’s Installation Management Command (IMCOM) and as the Army’s Assistant Chief of Staff for Instillation Management (ACISM) put him in charge of developing service and infrastructure sites around the world, including facility construction and maintenance, improving service delivery at a reduced cost, and the US Army’s energy and environmental programs. Lieutenant General Rick Lynch retired from active duty on January 1, 2012.
Over the course of his seasoned career, Lynch was able to witness and experience vast changes in the army and across the globe. As a cadet, he welcomed the first female cadets into the Academy; during the Vietnam War, he saw the transition into an All Volunteer Army; and while stationed in Germany in 1989, he witnessed the collapse of East Germany and its reintegration into the West. From his deployment in the first Gulf War to Kosovo and Iraq, he acquired a unique perspective as a witness to the best and worst in his fellow man and was awarded a soldier’s medal for heroism while deployed to Desert Shield / Desert Storm.
Secretary Larry D. Hall
Larry D. Hall is currently serving as the Secretary for the North Carolina Department of Military & Veterans Affairs. Secretary Hall has represented Durham County, North Carolina’s 29th District in the House of Representatives, since 2006, and he has led House Democrats since 2012.
Born and raised in his district and a student of public schools, Secretary Hall earned a bachelor’s degree with Honors in Political Science and Business from Johnson C. Smith University, and a law degree from the School of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Upon undergraduate graduation, he was commissioned as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. A decorated officer, Secretary Hall served 16 years in the United States Marines and Marine Corps Reserves and served in the support of the Operations in the Middle East in Lebanon and Iran. Secretary Hall has been awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, the Marine Corps Reserve Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and a Meritorious Unit Citation from the United States Marine Corps. He served as a Rifle Platoon Commander, Weapons Company Executive Officer, Training Officer, Battalion Area Security Officer, Staff Judge Advocate, Communications Security Officer and Logistics Officer. Secretary Hall also served as Legal Officer and was formerly Commandant for the Marine Corps League Detachment, which assists Marines transitioning from activity duty to civilian life in locating employment, housing and educational opportunities for their families.
Secretary Hall is an active member of the community. He has served as an Executive Committee Member and Economic Committee Chairman of the Durham Branch of the NAACP, as Secretary and Chairman of the Durham Business and Professional Chain, and served on the Durham Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He has also served as Executive Officer of the Young Marines Program, Board Chairman of the Durham Companions Mentor Program, and as an instructor and training officer teaching youth leadership, discipline, custom, courtesies, and traditions of the Marine Corps. Secretary Hall’s service to North Carolina continues to be merited, receiving the NAACP’s President’s Award, Equality in Legislation Leadership Award, and Excellence from the Courtroom to the Capital Community Service Award. Secretary Hall has been featured multiple times in Governing magazine and has been honored as a Champion of NC Working Families, a 100% Environmental Champion, and a Defender of Justice for his commitment to safeguarding voting rights, expanding opportunities throughout the state for individuals and communities of low incomes, and protecting vulnerable families and members of the military from predatory lending.
As House Democratic Leader, Secretary Hall served on the state’s Economic Development Board, the state’s Innovation Council, The North Carolina Courts Commission—Chairperson, The Duke Medical Center Advisory Board, the Homeland Security, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee—Chairman, and has been inducted as a Toll Fellow by the National Conference of State Governments. He was elected to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) 2015 Board of Directors to devise and execute nationwide election strategy in state legislatures. Secretary Hall also is Chair of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus Foundation.
PRESIDENT MARGARET SPELLINGS
Margaret Spellings took the helm of the UNC system in March of 2016 following a distinguished career in public service and education policy at both the state and national levels.
She served as Chief White House domestic policy adviser and then as U.S. Secretary of Education, where she led the Commission on the Future of Higher Education – which came to be known as the Spellings Commission – and spearheaded stronger accountability in the nation’s public schools through No Child Left Behind.
As head of North Carolina’s 17-campus University system, Spellings has brought a sharp focus on improving economic and social mobility in the state. The system’s Strategic Plan, launched a year after her arrival, is designed to help far more North Carolinians earn access to higher education and create stronger ties between the state’s public schools, community colleges, and universities.
Student Veterans Panel: Unique experiences and needs of UNC student veterans on campus.
Justin Salerno- Moderator
Sergeant Justin Salerno (Ret.) enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2007. After a short 3043 MOS (supply administration), Salerno was transitioned to a machine gunner. He served two combat deployments: first in 2009 to Iraq on a Police Transition Team, and second in 2011 to Afghanistan’s Operation Enduring Freedom on a personal security detail for a brigadier general. During this deployment, Salerno received a Purple Heart for wounds received in action, as well as a combat meritorious promotion to the rank of sergeant for outstanding leadership, valor, and combat performance. He was honorably discharged in 2012. In 2015 Salerno graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from NC State. He is now working toward an MBA degree at NC State.
Nick Alberino is originally from New Jersey and played two years of college baseball before enlisting in the Marine Corps. His decision to enlist came from his proximity to the Twin Towers and watching his uncles who were firefighters in the FNDY respond to the tragic events on 9/11. Alberino enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2008 and deployed for one year to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was honorably discharged in 2012 and attended Rutgers University where he completed his bachelor's degree in Human Resources. After graduation, Alberino worked for Credit Suisse for two years as an Operations Analyst supporting the Commercial Mortgage Trading business. After deciding trading was not for him, Alberino decided to attend NC State University to obtain his MBA, where he currently is completing his second year. Over the past summer, he interned for Cisco supporting the Global Procurement Services and Digital Enablement teams. He is passionate about helping others find their passion and purpose through networking and creating long-lasting relationships.
Tamera (T.J.) Harris
Tamera Harris is a second degree-seeking, senior nursing student at UNC Greensboro, where she is enrolled in the Veteran's Access Program. Tamera served in the Army National Guard from 2002-2009 in the 505th Engineer Battalion in Gastonia. She was an Army Medic during her time in the National Guard. Prior to starting her degree at UNC Greensboro, Tamera worked in home health care and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Health Care Management from Winston-Salem State University. After graduation in May 2018 from UNC Greensboro, Tamera plan to pursue a career in serving fellow veterans by becoming an international travel nurse or midwife. Tamera Harris is a native of Statesville and currently resides in Winston-Salem with her 16-year-old son.
Becca Ryan is a second-semester sophomore at Appalachian State University. She currently serves as a receptionist and media manager at the Student Veteran Services at App State. She is also a Senior Airman in the Air Force Reserves. She served in the US Marine Corps from 2013 to 2017 at Camp Lejeune as a Finance Technician. As a native of Virginia Beach, Ryan spent two years at a community college and a career college before joining the Marines. She began taking classes again during her second year in the Marines and transferred to Appalachian State, as well as enlisting in the Air Force Reserves, in January 2017.
Zachariah Zhorne is a senior at UNC Wilmington and currently pursuing his bachelor of arts degree in History with a focus on Secondary Education. He served in the Marine Corps for nine years, is an Operation Enduring Freedom veteran, and his primary specialty was as an infantry rifleman. He is actively involved in the Veteran Community in the city of Wilmington and Brunswick County and serves as vice president in the UNCW Student Veterans Organization as well as a vice chair on the New Hanover County Veterans Council. His goals include continuing his education in law school and gaining a master’s degree in Public Administration. He plans to pursue a career in the legal profession with an emphasis on reform in public education and criminal justice policies.
Campus Leaders Panel: Best practices by UNC institutions in support of military-affiliated.
Siobhan Norris, Panel Moderator
Siobhan Norris serves as the Military Liaison & Program Manager for the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Office of Military Affairs. She’s proud to be a member of a family that can date their military involvement back to the Civil War. She is the granddaughter of a decorated WW II Marine Corps veteran, the daughter of a decorated combat wounded Special Forces Vietnam veteran, is married to a US Army Black Hawk Aviator, and is herself a veteran of the US Army Military Police Corps. She recently facilitated numerous strategic partnerships for UNCW in order to increase support and resources for the military student population on campus. These partnerships include the National Military Family Association, the Association of the United States Army, PsychArmor, the North Carolina Defense Business Association, and the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program. Additionally, she oversees the campus’ Military Resource Center and provides support to over 1900 military-affiliated students while also serving as the Advisor for the UNCW Student Veteran Organization. Siobhan serves on the US Chamber’s national Military Spouse Employment Advisory Council to provide a voice for best practices in hiring military-affiliated students. She holds a bachelor of arts in psychology and will graduate in the Spring of 2018 with a master’s of arts in conflict management and resolution from UNCW. Her professional affiliations include The Military Order of the Purple Heart Ladies Auxiliary and the Association of the United States Army.
Eric Gormly is the Coordinator of Student Veteran Services at Appalachian State University. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 2004 to 2010 and deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After exiting the military, he attended Johnson County Community College, obtaining his associate of general studies, and the University of Kansas, graduating with his bachelor of general studies in developmental psychology. During his academic career, he worked at JCCC in the Veteran Services office, where he helped establish the Veteran & Military Student Resource Center. He joined Appalachian in June 2016 as part of the DoE Centers for Excellence Grant, where he serves on the Military Affairs Committee and is the Staff Advisor for the Student Veterans Association. He has used his years of experience as a student veteran and employee of educational institutions to help his fellow veterans succeed as they enter a new academic environment, whether it be through transitional assistance, on-campus programming, or interdepartmental collaborations. He is currently pursuing his Master’s in Higher Education – Leadership from Appalachian State University.
Dr. Joe Wescott
Joseph W. Wescott II (Joe) was appointed Legislative Director of the National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASAA) in August 2015. Previously, he served for four years as NASAA President and Vice President, while simultaneously working on the NASAA Legislative Committee. Wescott was appointed Executive Director of the North Carolina State Approving Agency (NCSAA) in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2009 by the UNC System Board of Governors. As Executive Director, he oversees more than 400 higher education institutions and training establishments throughout North Carolina, ensuring quality educational programming for veterans and their eligible dependents. Prior to his appointment, Wescott served in leadership roles in higher education, including as the director of the office of Planning, Policy and Evaluation at Brunswick Community College, federal relations analyst/government relations representative for Duke University, and adjunct instructor at several colleges and professional organizations. Dr. Wescott is a veteran, having served on active duty as a combat officer in the US Army. He attended Wake Forest University on a four year Army ROTC scholarship, graduating with honors. He holds advanced degrees from Wake Forest University and North Carolina State University, including the doctorate in higher education administration. In addition to other duties, Wescott serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Leadership, Policy, Adult and Higher Education at NC State University. He also serves on numerous national boards and state committees, including the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veteran’s Advisory Committee on Education, the NASAA Executive Board, NC Proprietary Schools Advisory Board, and the Governor’s Working Group on Veterans, Service Members and their Families. His awards include the NC State University Higher Education Faculty and Graduate Student Association Distinguished Alumni Award 2014-2015), the WAVES Bill Pearson Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award (2015), and the NASAA Lifetime Leadership Award (2017).
Rebecca Christiansen serves as the Associate Director for Employer Development at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She holds a masters of science in administration for human resources from Central Michigan University and a bachelors of arts in cconomics from Michigan State University. She joined the UNCW Career Center in 2016 bringing more than 11 years of experience in financial, career planning, and corporate recruitment. She provides leadership for all programs and services related to employer development, serves as the lead coordinator for all on-campus career fairs, on-campus recruitment, the UNCW Employer Advisory Board, along with the Graduate Survey, Corporate Partner initiatives, and the partnership between the university and the North Carolina Defense Business Association. Rebecca has been instrumental in advancing UNC Wilmington’s employer relations with numerous Fortune 500 companies while also serving as a leading voice in hiring best practices on the national Military Spouse Employment Advisory Council through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She is a fierce advocate for meaningful employment for the entire military population as she is also a military spouse to an active duty soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, NC. Rebecca serves as a Co-Director for the first university based In Gear Career Chapter for career minded military spouses, a result of her tireless dedication to serving the military and her role in helping to secure a partnership with the US Chamber of Commerce. She is SHRM-CP and PHR certified and holds professional affiliations with SHRM, NACE, and NCACE.
Haywood Cochrane, a native of Weldon, NC, and the son of a WWII US Army veteran, serves as the Chair for UNC-Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees. He is the Past Chairman of the Board of Directors of DARA Biosciences, Inc. He began his career in banking and moved into healthcare where he specialized in being part of a team that rebuilt and grew a number of public and private companies – with the support of venture capital and private equity partners – to create jobs and build long-term shareholder value. He received his bachelor’s of arts in Political Science from UNC-Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Scholar, a North Carolina Fellow, and Secretary of the UNC-Chapel Hill Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. He has held a number of senior management and executive positions at companies, such as Allied Clinical Laboratories, Inc., Roche Biomedical Laboratories, Inc., National Health Laboratories, Inc., Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, and CHD Meridian Corporate Healthcare, Inc., now a unit of Walgreens. He has served as director of I-trax, Allied Clinical Laboratories, Inc., Tripath Imaging, Inc., EV3, Inc., American Esoterics, Inc., JDN Realty, Inc., Sonus Corp., Unilab, Inc., and Ameripath, Inc., as well as other private companies. He and his two teenage sons reside in Elon, NC.
State Legislative Leader Panel: Legislative leadership on how North Carolina and the University can partner in support of the military.
NC Representative John Bell, District 10—Craven
John R. Bell IV is a native of Mount Olive, North Carolina and is a graduate of North Duplin High School. During his high school years, he attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Sociology. Bell began his career with the Tuscarora Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Duplin and Sampson Counties. He continued his career with the Boy Scouts with the Gulf Coast Council in Panama City, Florida. He transitioned to the financial services industry in North Carolina where he developed and put together business finance packages that gave rise to several successful enterprises over an 11-year banking career. Bell is currently a Client Executive for Sentinel Risk Advisors where he works with small and medium market enterprises to navigate their risk portfolio to capitalize on their investment opportunities. He is married to Kelli Gurley Bell and has a daughter, Averi Kostin Bell.
Representative Bell is serving his third term representing the citizens of House District 10 which includes parts of Craven, Greene, Lenoir and Wayne Counties. He served as the House Majority Whip during the 2015-2016 Session and was elected in August 2016 to serve as House Majority Leader. Bell was re-elected to serve as the House Majority Leader for the 2017-2018 Session.
Bell currently serves on several legislative committees which include Agriculture, Appropriations, Energy and Public Utilities, Finance, Homeland Security, Military and Veterans Affairs, Regulatory Reform, Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House, the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations and the Legislative Research Commission. He also serves on the North Carolina Military Affairs Commission and the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on the North Carolina State Lottery. He chairs the House Select Committee on Disaster Relief. He continues to be active in the Tuscarora Council for the Boy Scouts of America, Wayne County Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee and Rotary International.
NC Senator David Curtis, District 44—Lincoln
Dr. David Curtis has served in the North Carolina Senate since January 2013. Sen. Curtis represents Lincoln, Iredell, and Gaston Counties in District 44. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Economics at UNC-Chapel Hill and went on to earn his Doctoral Degree in Optometry at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee. Sen. Curtis served four years in the United States Air Forces as an Optometry Officers at various Air Force clinics. During his time in the Air Force he also served as Chief of the eye clinic at Incirlik Regional Hospital in Turkey.
Sen. Curtis currently serves on the Standing Committees of Appropriations Education/Higher Education, Education/Higher Education Vice-Chairman, Judiciary II, Health Care, State and Local Government, Vice-Chair of Finance Workforce & Economic Development, and Pensions & Retirement and Aging. Sen. Curtis also serves on the Non-Standing Committees of Joint Legislative Education Oversight, Joint Legislative Committee on Local Government, Revenue Laws Study Committee, Chairman of the Joint Legislative Workforce Development System Reform Oversight Committee as an Advisory Member to the Joint Legislative Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight committee. Sen. Curtis’ main areas of interest include Higher Education and tax reform. Sen. Curtis has been married to his wife Rachael for 42 years and has three children and four grandchildren.
NC Representative Holly Grange, District 20–New Hanover
Holly Grange currently serves as District 20 Representative to the North Carolina House of Representatives which includes New Hanover County. She is the Director of Community Relations at Osprey Global Solutions, a Wilmington company specializing in remote medical, logistics, security, training and business intelligence services. She is 15 year US Army Veteran, serving on active duty and in the reserves as an officer in the US Army Corp of Engineers.
Representative Grange currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Coastal Horizons Center, the Board of Directors of the Cape Fear Community College Foundation, and the Advisory Board for the Swain Center for Professional Development at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Ports Authority, USO of North Carolina, and ACCESS Foundation of Wilmington (the Miracle Field),
Representative Grange earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 1982 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, a Master of Science in Systems Management in 1988 from the University of Southern California, and a Juris Doctor from Northern Illinois University College of Law in 2006. She is a member of the Illinois Bar. Ms. Grange is an NRA pistol and rifle instructor and is a North Carolina concealed carry instructor.
NC Representative John Szoka, District 45–Cumberland
John Szoka is a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, 45th District of Cumberland County. He was first elected in 2012 and ran unopposed for his reelection in 2014 and 2016. Szoka serves in the NC House as: Senior Chair of Energy and Public Utilities; Chairman of the Finance Committee; Vice-Chair of Elections and Ethics Law; Rules, Calendar & Operations of the House, and the House Select Committee on Redistricting. He serves as a member of committees on Health; Homeland Security, Military, and Veterans Affairs, Judiciary III; and the University Board of Governors Nominating Committee. He also serves as Chairman of the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy and as a member of the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee, the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, and Revenue Laws Study Committee. In a unanimous vote by his peers, John Szoka was elected Conference Chair (Session 2017-18). The Speaker Appointed Szoka as a Member of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
Mr. Szoka graduated from Maple Heights High School in Ohio in 1972. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1972 and graduated in 1976, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering. He earned his Master’s Degree in Operations Research from the University of Texas at Austin in 1985. Upon graduation from West Point in 1976 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry and served over 20 years as an Infantry Officer, retiring from active duty in 1996 as a Lieutenant Colonel. Ranger and Airborne qualified, Szoka served in a variety of command and staff positions during his career. Since his retirement from active duty in 1996 he has owned several successful small businesses. He currently is employed in the mortgage lending business. Mr. Szoka and his wife, Laurie, currently reside in Fayetteville, North Carolina and have two grown children, Hunter and Morgan.
Credit Transfer Panel: Partnerships between NC Community College System and UNC system on transfer of credit for military prior learning.
Chuck Gross, Moderator
Charles Gross serves as the Director for Prior Learning Assessment and Military Credit for the University of North Carolina System. During his twenty-year career in the United States Air Force, Charles was regularly involved in the formal education, training, and professional development of military and civilian managers and leaders. Upon retiring from the Air Force in 2006, Charles began working at Western Carolina University as the Director for Military Education. During his five years at WCU, he served as the chief university point of contact and primary advocate for military-affiliated students, working with faculty, staff, and university administrators to streamline all processes affecting military-affiliated students, and to raise campus awareness of veteran issues. Charles also worked at Montreat College as an academic advisor and student veteran coordinator. At UNC, Charles’ main focus has been to carry out the mandates of Senate Bill 761, which requires the UNC Board of Governors and the State Board of Community Colleges to optimize the process of granting academic credit to students with military training and occupational experience.
Susan Barbitta worked as a system analyst for AT&T Bell Labs before joining Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) in 2000. She was a math faculty member at GTCC for 13 years. Susan was a member of the North Carolina Developmental Education Initiative redesign team and worked on numerous Achieving the Dream initiatives. In 2013, Susan became the Director of the Student Success Learning Institute for NC, promoting the work of Guided Pathways to NC’s community colleges and assisting other states in creating a Student Success Learning Institute. She was also the Director of the Multiple Measures Research Study, research surrounding placement via multiple measures. Susan assumed her current role as Associate Director, Special Projects in 2016 where she is involved with the Developmental Education reform, Military Credit for Prior Learning, Multiple Measures, and the Career-and-College-Ready Graduate Alignment Partnership.
Jasmine D. Coleman currently serves as the military outreach coordinator at UNC Pembroke. In that role, she serves as an ombudsman for the military-affiliated student population at the university. Coleman has occupied several roles within the military-affiliated community to include: military dependent, active duty service member, veteran, and military spouse. She is twice honorably discharged veteran with active duty service in the United States Army and reserve service in the North Carolina Army National Guard. She received her bachelor of science degree in Sociology from Methodist University and her master of arts in Communications (Public Relations) from Southern New Hampshire University. Coleman relies upon her own experiences as a non-traditional student to advocate for military affiliated students on a daily basis. She is a member of the National Association of Black Veterans and the National Council of Negro Women.
Briana Ford currently serves as the Director of Military Student Services at Western Carolina University, where she was previously the certifying official. She holds bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology. She has a passion for service members as a military dependent, a military spouse, and now a military mom. She also serves on the WNC Vet Council, the NC Strive planning committee, and as the chair of the WCU Military Advisory Council.
Dr. Susan Letvak
Dr. Susan Letvak is Director of Undergraduate Programs and the Veterans Access Program at UNC Greensboro School of Nursing. She started her clinical nursing career as a US Navy nurse and subsequently worked in critical care settings at a VA Medical Center before transitioning to civilian nursing care in critical care, home health and long term care settings. She teaches at all levels at UNCG from BSN to PhD. In addition to being focused on successful transition of military veterans to civilian life, her research is focused on retaining older nurses in the workforce and quality of care for hospitalized patients.
Transitions and Talent Panel: Transitioning veterans to the workforce; industry view that veterans are crucial to NC’s workforce and economy.
Lance DeSpain, Moderator
Lance T. DeSpain has served as the NC Military Foundation’s Executive Director since 2010. As the Executive Director, DeSpain is charged with developing the vision, mission and goals of the Foundation, along with leading the Foundation’s efforts to drive growth in the six strategic markets laid out in the Foundation’s N.C. Defense Asset Inventory and Target Industry Cluster Analysis. Prior to joining the Foundation, DeSpain served in a variety of ascending leadership and strategy roles for The Hartford Financial Services Group, including Chief of Staff to the CEO, Director of International business development and the head of M&A for a business unit. In his role, he served as Assistant Vice President: Sales and Marketing Strategy where he was responsible for the development of a comprehensive sales and marketing strategy for the distribution of $10B+ of property and casualty insurance products through 10,000+ agents and brokers. DeSpain also has experience in investment banking and as a strategy consultant for Booz & Co., a leading strategy consulting firm. He also has significant military experience, having served in the United States Marine Corps, from 1995 through 1999. As Captain, he served as Camp Lejeune’s Finance and Budget Officer, and was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal for outstanding leadership and innovative business practices. DeSpain earned a master of business administration from the Yale School of Management; and a bachelor of arts from the University of Rochester, where he was a four-year Naval ROTC scholar. He also serves on a variety of boards that directly impact the military and our local economy. These include North Carolina New School Systems (STEM), Capital Workforce Committee, North Carolina Military Affairs Committee, and the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill. DeSpain resides in Raleigh.
Tim J. Gabel is the executive vice president of Social, Statistical, and Environmental Sciences (SSES) and is helping guide RTI’s Big Data strategy. Mr. Gabel joined RTI in 1983 with technical training in both statistics and computer science and has served in a variety of leadership roles during his career, including the head of the Research Computing Division and the vice president for Survey and Computing Sciences. Gabel helped pioneer RTI’s early efforts to conceptualize and develop Internet applications for research activities and has extensive experience directing data collection and data processing activities for scientific research studies. Now he is leading the effort to align RTI to meet the demands of big data so that RTI’s researchers can answer questions that until recently, were impossible to quantify. As head of SSES, the largest of RTI’s business units, he manages an annual revenue of approximately $400 million and more than 1,500 professional staff who conduct a variety of research, development and technical assistance projects. Most of the SSES portfolio involves large-scale data collection and management, with an emphasis on complex methodological, statistical, and epidemiological approaches to important public policy issues in health, environment, education, economics, public policy, and social welfare.
Timothy McClain serves as MetLife’s U.S. Initiatives Lead for Military & Veterans Affairs. In this role, he is the enterprise lead for the strategy related to military Veterans. He is responsible for ensuring there is a consistent focus on increasing the spend on Veteran owned small businesses. He is also responsible for ensuring talent and recruiting strategies align with the Veterans strategy. Tim also serves as U.S. liaison to the MetLife Military Veterans (MVET) employee resource group.
McClain joined MetLife in 2014 as a Cisco-certified data center engineer at MetLife’s Global Technology Operations campus in Cary. In this role, McClain provided deep subject-matter expertise and helped lead solutions delivery for MetLife’s U.S.-based data center networks. McClain also served in various roles as an I.T. professional for several companies in the Research Triangle Park.
McClain is a combat Veteran, having served in various campaigns, including conflicts in Southwest Asia, Iraq and Haiti. McClain was a commander in the 112th Signal Battalion at Fort Bragg, the largest special operations signal unit in the world. McClain is a United States Army Ranger.
Outside of work, McClain volunteers his time and serves in leadership roles with the USO, Bridge II Sports and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. He is also a NCAA college basketball official in the southeast United States.
McClain received his MPA from Troy University using his G.I. Bill benefits and was a Distinguished Military Graduate and four-year ROTC scholarship cadet at N.C. A&T State University.
Seann Ritzman is a New Jersey native who served in the US Navy as a Radioman stationed at the US Naval War College in Newport, RI (1995-1999).
While stationed at NWC he was exposed to some of the best military leadership from each branch and was responsible for the setup and support of Naval War Games computer systems and networking. Since leaving active duty, he has maintained the course his Navy rate set him on in, working and growing in the technical support realm. Currently, Seann is a Customer Service Engineering Team Lead at Cisco in RTP, NC where he is Cisco’s NC Chapter Lead of the Veterans Enablement and Troop Support (VETS) Employee Resource Organization (ERO). He also leads some of Cisco’s National VETS outreach programs, helping drive Cisco’s Corporate Responsibility initiatives across US sites.
This is also seen on the national level through events like the Cisco-founded Veterans Career Transition Day (VCTD); a military focused resource event that helps transitioning service members and their families shift to civilian roles. VCTD happens annually in November through multiple Cisco sites with area companies and resources who share in this missions to help our military.
Seann prides himself on being someone that champions veterans’ causes to connect passionate people, companies, organizations, and resources with each other and those in need. He is actively engaged with several non-profits which rehabilitation and empowerment following physical, mental, and emotional traumas.
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