If you’re a veteran interested in pursuing a career in the political world, Syracuse University may have just the program for you.
This fall, Syracuse will launch its “Veterans in Politics” academic program, which is designed to give veterans and military family members a crash course in what it takes to succeed at all levels of politics.
“We hope to in a very practical way create the opportunity to put the veterans who participate in the program on a path to enacting their aspiration for office,” said Mike Haynie, Syracuse’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation. Haynie also serves as the executive director of the school’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families.
The Veterans in Politics program will be run out of Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Haynie said that veterans will learn valuable skills like campaign planning, fundraising, developing an issues platform and crafting policy.
He also said that Syracuse plans to ask some of the veterans currently serving in Congress to come impart their wisdom to students.
Haynie is a veteran himself, having served in the Air Force from 1992 to 2006 as a logistician. For him, getting more veterans elected to office has larger implications than just representation.
“I believe as a citizen that it’s important the individuals making decisions about sending the nation’s sons and daughters to war have firsthand experience of what that means,” he said.
One of the program’s goals is to increase the number of veterans getting elected to political offices. Only 96 veterans are currently serving in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Justin Brown — founder of the nonprofit Hillvets that supports veterans and troops interested in politics — said that less than 2 percent of Capitol Hill staff have military experience.
“Anything that is creative and will help veterans get smart in terms of being engaged in the political system is very positive,” he said. “Veterans obviously have a history of putting our country before politics, so having more veterans involved in government and politics ... is a very good thing.”
Brown also brought up the notion that veterans’ identities tend to “trump party ideology,” as they “identify more strongly with their military service” than a political party. That philosophy makes them the ideal public servants, according to Brown.
Charlie Poag is a 36-year-old Marine veteran and Syracuse sophomore majoring in public relations and political science. He wants to break into the political realm, and he said he reached out for more information on the Veterans in Politics program the day it was announced.
“Whenever you’re combining anything that the IVMF and Maxwell school are doing, it’s going to be phenomenal,” he said.
Poag believes that veterans are uniquely qualified to hold political office.
“I think veterans bring to the table a lot of experience in serving,” he said. “Their drive is to serve and be a part of something larger than themselves. I think we need more people in politics that have that intent.”
It’s worth mentioning that though a program like this tailored specifically to veterans is rare, it’s not the only one of its kind. The University of San Francisco offers a Master of Arts in public leadership “designed specifically for veterans and military families,” according to its website. That program, however, is open to the whole student population, while Syracuse’s is not.
Veterans currently serving in Congress on both sides of the aisle agreed that this program sounds like a worthwhile endeavor.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., is an Army veteran and the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He said he isn’t satisfied with less than 20 percent of the House being veterans, which is the case as it stands now.
“The great thing is that Syracuse University has acknowledged that there probably is a need out there for this and is putting a course on,” he said. “It’s phenomenal that they’re doing that and I bet they won’t be the last one to do it.”
Then there’s Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a Marine Corps veteran who recently announced his 2020 presidential bid.
He has been supporting veterans with political aspirations through his Serve America PAC, which helped 18 candidates win races during the last midterm elections.
“We need more veterans and national security professionals in public office, because veterans are accountable to their team and constituents, they’re moral leaders and they get things done,” he told Rebootcamp via email.
To some veterans, political work is just another form of service. For Syracuse’s Haynie, giving vets the opportunity to learn the tricks of the political trade through the Veterans in Politics program was the university’s way of serving them.
“[O]ur thought was, ‘this is what we do, so why not leverage that resource to serve our community,’” he said.