Student Veterans of America

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Student Veterans of America
Purpose"To provide military veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation."
HeadquartersWashington, DC
President & CEO
Jared Lyon

Student Veterans of America (SVA), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on addressing the needs and concerns of American military veterans in higher education. SVA is best known for being an umbrella organization for student veterans' groups that advocates for improvements in veterans educational benefits. Its efforts, combined with other veterans' service organizations, led to passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), a lead sponsor of the legislation, has cited SVA's efforts as one of the primary reasons the new G.I. Bill was signed into law on June 30, 2008.[1]


SVA has two major components: the executive leadership staff at SVA National Headquarters, and the on-campus SVA chapters of student veterans. The local SVA chapters are student groups that have formed on college and university campuses to provide peer-to-peer networks for veterans who are attending those schools. The chapters are designed to be an advocate for student veterans, and to help bridge the campus-to-career transition. They coordinate on-campus and community outreach activities, facilitate pre-professional networking, and provide a touchstone for student veterans in higher education.[2] These SVA chapters are an important part of ensuring that every veteran is successful after their service.

The executive leadership staff facilitates communication between the SVA chapters, connects them with external resources, and organizes these chapters to advocate at the state and national level for the common needs of student veterans.

Chapter Affiliates[edit]

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently highlighted the inextricable link between education and employment in noting that over 60% of all new jobs created from now until 2018 will require a postsecondary degree or credential.[3] Veterans, however, face significant barriers to degree attainment that range from feeling like an outsider on a campus of 18-year-old traditional students to coping with the visible and invisible wounds of war.[4] SVA classifies these barriers into three categories: administrative, reintegration, and academic. Administrative challenges are linked to accessing benefits and navigating campus bureaucracies. Reintegration issues arise as transitioning veterans try to develop a new identity and sense of belonging. Academic struggles typically stem from long periods away from academia due to military service. Vincent Tinto, renowned education researcher, notes that without peer support these challenges can become insurmountable obstacles that lead to isolation and high dropout rates.[5]

SVA chapters do not pay any dues to associate with the national organization and each group is encouraged to utilize national best-practices to address local issues. A recent RAND study noted that 61% of student veterans found the support they received from fellow veterans as “quite or extremely helpful to the pursuit of their educational goals.” [6] SVA chapters are fulfilling a critical function on hundreds of campuses nationwide.

There are more than 1,300 SVA chapters.[7]

National Headquarters[edit]

Student Veterans of America's national office is located in Washington, DC and consists of a number of professional, paid staff members.


SVA’s Predecessors[edit]

Before the end of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill of Rights.[8] After demobilizing, returning veterans flooded colleges and universities around the country. Not only did these student veterans face basic challenges associated with reintegrating into civilian life, but schools were unprepared for this influx of students, which led to additional problems for veterans like severe housing shortages and lack of transitional assistance. Student veterans banded together, forming peer-to-peer support networks to overcome these challenges and earn their college degrees.

Through the '70s, '80s and '90s, veterans continued to transition to campus following their military service, albeit in smaller numbers. The revised Montgomery G.I. Bill was offered as a recruitment incentive for the all-volunteer force. Some of the local student veteran groups that formed on campuses after conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, like those at Northern Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, still exist today.

SVA’s Genesis – The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill[edit]

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) (Iraq). As OEF and OIF veterans returned home to use G.I. Bill benefits, they found that their campuses did not provide adequate support services to assist student veterans as they worked towards their educational goals.

Lacking support, student veterans decided to organize on campuses across the country. These groups began to connect with one another through social media - spreading best practices, sharing success stories, and supporting fellow chapters to further strengthen the student veteran community. In 2008, members from roughly 20 schools convened in Chicago to formalize this grassroots movement and found Student Veterans of America.

SVA was officially incorporated between the 18th and 20 January 2008 to provide programs, resources, and support to the ever-evolving network of local student veteran organizations—today known as SVA chapters.

Concurrently, SVA and a number of Veteran Service Organizations were tirelessly advocating for an overhaul of the G.I. Bill to address the needs of the 21st Century student veteran. Six months after SVA's founding, President George W. Bush signed into law the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Programs & Initiatives[edit]

SVA programs and initiatives fall under ten categories:[9]

Support Students[edit]

The heart of SVA is the student-led chapter. SVA supports a network of over 1,300 schools and over 500,000 student veterans. At the individual level, SVA empowers veterans to be informed consumers of higher education and make the most of the transition to civilian life.

Fund Scholarships[edit]

SVA has awarded over $1 million to 111 SVA Scholars since 2011. Thanks to corporate sponsors, SVA is supporting new scholars every semester. View open scholarships.

Train Tomorrow's Leaders[edit]

The annual Leadership Institute Series offers Local Leadership Summits in every region of the country and culminates with the Leadership Institute, a highly-selective colloquium of SVA's best students. The sessions offer chapter management, budgeting, and strategic planning skills.

Build Vet Centers[edit]

A Vet Center is the place on campus for student veterans to study and socialize. In two years, SVA has awarded $553,000 to 61 chapters to build Vet Centers. In 2016, SVA will build a Vet Center on 50 more campuses.

Tell Your Story[edit]

SVA's communications team shares the successes of student veterans across the country by engaging in strategic media opportunities, and by telling the stories of our chapters and members.

Protect the G.I. Bill[edit]

SVA is a guardian and steward of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and SVA founders had an important part in the bill's genesis. SVA's Government Affairs team advises lawmakers and advocates in eight issue areas such as student debt and STEM fields.

Conduct Groundbreaking Research[edit]

The initial Million Records Project (MRP) offered facts to policymakers, service providers, colleges, and the public. SVA has launched two new research initiatives: The National Veteran Education Success Tracker (NVEST) adds education levels, majors and completion rates of Bill recipients and The SVA Spotlight survey provides annual demographic insights.

Plan the SVA Annual National Conference[edit]

The SVA National Conference is the nation's largest gathering of student veterans. Attend the 2017 National Conference in Anaheim, California on January 5–8 and enjoy testimonials from 2016.

Develop Sustainable Support[edit]

SVA's development team builds corporate partnerships that fund student-veteran success.

Build an Alumni Network[edit]

Being a student veteran and an SVA member does not end at graduation. The alumni network keeps student veterans connected for a lifetime and facilitates mentorship opportunities.

National Conventions[edit]

Actress Jamie Gray Hyder attended the 2017 and 2018 National Conventions of SVA as an awards presenter, and acknowledged the video game Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016) for alerting her to the military experience of veterans, notably women.

Board of directors[edit]

The SVA Board of Directors has twelve members. The current board leadership is as follows.

Rodrigo Garcia, Board Chair. Mr. Garcia currently serves the State of Illinois as a senior state executive and as a member of the Illinois Cabinet. He was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn on October 11, 2011 and was subsequently confirmed by the Illinois State Senate on November 29, 2011. In this pivotal executive post, Garcia presides as the second-in-command of a state agency with over 1,300+ staff members, a $128 million budget, 80+ statewide offices, numerous program & service divisions, and a senior executive staff. He was named one of the "Top 100 under 50” Executive Leaders by Diversity MBA Magazine and as one of Miller Coors’ nationwide "Hispanic Lideres”, was the recipient of President Obama's Council on Service and Civic Participation "Call to Service Award”.

Michael R. Lehnert, Vice Chair. Major General Michael R. Lehnert served as Commanding General, Marine Corps Installations West and graduated from Central Michigan University in 1973 with an undergraduate degree in History. In 1999 he deployed to Panama as the Chief of Staff, Joint Task Force Panama, and oversaw the final turnover of the Panama Canal. After serving for two years as a senior adviser to the Commissioner, Customs and Border Protection, General Lehnert was invited to serve as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow where he lectures on leadership and ethical decision making.

Peter Meijer, Vice Chair. Mr. Meijer served as a non-commissioned Army officer in Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn from the summer of 2010 to the summer of 2011. Mr. Meijer spent his time in Iraq embedded with the Iraqi Army as a combat advisor at Joint Security Stations in the Baghdad area, conducting bilateral training missions and force protection operations. Mr. Peter Meijer grew up at the center of two family businesses, School Zone Publishing and Meijer, Inc. supercenters. He is also a member of the Cape Eleuthera Island School Alumni Advisory Board and an advisor to the Kettering Foundation and Gerald R. Ford Museum.

Luke Stalcup, MS, Treasurer. Stalcup enlisted in the Army at 18. He was trained as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist and served in Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq and other areas of Southwest Asia beginning in 2000. He was awarded two Bronze Star Medals with Valor Device for his actions during OIF I, where he served as an EOD Team Leader. In 2008, working with Derek Blumke and Elizabeth O'Herrin, he co-founded Student Veterans of America and worked as the Director of Public Affairs during SVA's campaign for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. He is currently pursuing an MD from the Duke University's School of Medicine and lives in Durham, NC.

Board of Advisors[edit]

The SVA Board of Advisors has fourteen members.

Geoffrey J. Deutsch, Chair. Geoff Deutsch has spent nearly 25 years helping transform large systems for delivering healthcare and human services. Geoff began his career as a "turnaround” executive with international hospital systems, managed care companies and health technology firms, where he established a record of rapid, breakthrough performance improvements. His introduction to the nonprofit sector came when Elizabeth Dole hired him in to help transform the American Red Cross. As a volunteer, Geoff has supported the Presidents and Boards of several national charities, with a focus on applying business principles to the nonprofit sector.


  1. ^ Wallis, David (1 March 2012). "Coming Home From War to Hit the Books". New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  2. ^ Evans, Martin (26 February 2014). "Vet groups on college campuses ease transition". Long Island Newsday. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  3. ^ Lacey, Alan (26 February 2014). "Occupational employment projections to 2018" (PDF). Occupational Employment. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  4. ^ Dao, James (26 February 2014). "A Million Strong: Helping Them Through". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  5. ^ Tinto, Vincent (26 February 2014). "Student Success, in the Classroom". Inside higher Ed. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  6. ^ Steele, Jennifer L. (26 February 2014). "Service Members in School: Military Veterans' Experiences Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Pursuing Postsecondary Education" (PDF). RAND Corporation. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Glenn C. Altschuler and Stuart M. Blumin, The GI Bill: a new deal for veterans (2009) p 118
  9. ^ "About Us". Retrieved 2016-03-24.

External links[edit]