Scott Askew, a Michigan State University student veteran, was selected as one of 100 students from across the country to attend the Student Veterans of America, or SVA, Leadership Institute in Dallas Oct. 19-22.
The Leadership Institute is a highly selective program that brings student veterans together for intensive leadership training. It chooses students who are emerging leaders in the chapter, campus and community.
Askew applied, but didn’t think he would be selected to attend. When he got the email that congratulated him on his selection, he felt excited and then anxious.
“I believe I was chosen because of my advocacy for education, especially among the enlisted ranks in the military,” Askew said. “The majority of junior enlisted members in our military have little to no higher education. A passion of mine is making the younger service members without a degree see the benefits of becoming a lifelong learner.”
Since starting school in 2014, Askew has been able to influence more than 40 soldiers to go back to school.
The Leadership Institute began with a service project at Equest, an equine therapy ranch outside of Dallas. The students then went to the George W. Bush Institute. It was an action-packed weekend. Breakfast was served every day at 7:30 a.m. and the sessions closed at 10 p.m.
Students got to hear from mentors such as Robert McDonald, the eighth secretary of Veterans Affairs; Sloan Gibson, former undersecretary of the Veterans Affairs; Tom Allin, former CEO of McDonalds Europe and undersecretary of Veterans Affairs; and Carrie Laureno, the director of Veterans and Disabilities Initiatives at Apple, founder of the Veteran’s Network at Google.
Mentors led groups of approximately 20 students and led classes on ethos, strengths and how to apply them and branding yourself properly.
Former President George W. Bush also spoke to students and answered their questions.
“I learned so much from so many that I am still trying to put all the pieces together,” Askew said. “In the last day, we had to write down our most impactful lesson learned. I wrote ‘I am creating the space for the next generation of veterans to gain greater access to higher education.’Further, I learned I needed to continue mentorship of veterans after my service ends in 2018.”
At 5 years old, Askew knew he wanted to join the military. He is currently active duty, serving as a master sergeant and will hang up his uniform after 21 years of active federal service in September 2018.
“The weekend in Dallas with Student Veterans of America actually changed my mind on what I should do after my service in the United States Army,” Askew said. “I thought I wanted to do a complete exit with the military, but helping young service members find a purpose through education is such a passion of mine, there is no way I can turn my back on these great people. I was on the cusp of losing that passion altogether when I retired.”
Tom Smith, faculty adviser of the MSU SVA chapter, said the organization is meant to support student veterans with their transition going back to school. They work to provide veterans with resources, support and advocacy in order to help them succeed in higher education. MSU’s Veteran Resource Center provides advising services as well.
“Through SVA, I have found a way to continue giving back to the veteran community well after my service,” Askew said. “That’s what Student Veterans of America is all about.”
There is no affiliation between SVA and the United States Army.