Grads of New Leadership Program Aim to Transform Veteran Advocacy

Stand-To Leadership scholars during a break-out session. (Photo courtesy of the Bush Institute).
Stand-To Leadership scholars during a break-out session. (Photo courtesy of the Bush Institute).

A new veteran-centric leadership academy spearheaded by the George W. Bush Institute graduated its first class this month, pushing forward a group of 33 change-makers seeking to make a paradigm shift in veteran advocacy. Now it is looking for new applicants for its second class.

The Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program (VLP) class graduated in a ceremony at the Bush Center in Dallas. The six-month program paired students with nationally known and distinguished professionals, educators and experts in post-9/11 veteran transition issues and leadership development.

The participants in the first-of-its-kind program are veteran and non-veteran leaders who are working to improve the post-9/11 veteran experience. They come from a variety of roles in private businesses, communities, veteran-serving nonprofits, government, academia and active-duty military.

"Stand-To is truly a unique leadership development program in that it educates, inspires and positions committed leaders," Marine Corps Reserve Col. Matthew Amidon, director of the Military Service Initiative at the Bush Institute, said by email. "In doing so, they are able to effectively drive systemic change that will allow our nation to best empower and leverage the continued leadership of our warriors and their families."

Stand-To was developed as part of the Bush Institute's commitment to developing and supporting effective leaders, institute officials said. The program builds on its work on veteran transition issues. Each participant joins the program with a personal leadership project. That focus is designed to let them use what what they learn in the program for veterans nationwide, officials said.

Army Col. Kimberly Moros said the program gave her the ability to ask important questions about the transition program she leads for assisting wounded, ill or injured special operations veterans at U.S. Special Operations Command.

"I am continually looking for new opportunities to improve processes where I can integrate new opportunities for our transitioning service member," she said in an email. "[The program] helped many of us to question what we are doing; are we creating the outcomes we want, are we impactful in people's lives, and are we surrounded by the right people to support our efforts?"

Moros says the program shook participants' preconceived notions of veteran care and advocacy to the core, causing many of the graduates to "quit their jobs" to refocus their skills and passion for helping veterans.

Blake Hogan, a Marine veteran and executive director of the veteran and military family entrepreneur nonprofit Bunker Labs, used the program to help him develop a robust professional network for veterans across the country. He's hoping those connections will let him expand Bunker Labs across all 50 states.

"I was challenged to stretch my perspective and to accomplish more," Hogan said in an email. "And, perhaps most importantly, when scholars faced hardships from Hurricane Florence to deaths in the family, the group came together to provide almost instantaneous and meaningful support. I did not expect that level of a tribe to form, but I am sure grateful it did, and look forward to the world-changing impact that will come from this group of scholars."

How to Apply

Applications are open now through Jan. 15, 2019. Stand-To VLP targets rising leaders (active-duty military service members, veterans and civilians) from a wide range of sectors who are working to improve outcomes for veterans and military families through professional and/or community engagement. Candidates are likely to hold a variety of roles, including board member or leader of a veteran-serving nonprofit, a funder or corporate leader engaged in veteran-specific initiatives, or a leadership position at any level of government.

Visit the Stand-to Leadership Program for more information and to apply. -- Sean Mclain Brown can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @seanmclainbrown

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