The Mason School receives $5M donation to establish new Center for Veteran Transition

The Raymond A. Mason School of Business is pleased to announce plans to establish a new Center for Veteran Transition after receiving approximately $5 million from an anonymous donor. The gift is part of a larger university-wide initiative to establish a groundbreaking Veteran-to-Executive Transition program that will prepare veterans to excel in civilian leadership roles.

The center, which will be located in Miller Hall, is designed to provide services to current active duty and veteran students enrolled across the Mason School’s portfolio of business programs and will use multiple modalities including online, in-person, and a hybrid approach to better reach and accommodate those in the full-time residential, part-time residential, and online courses of study.

“Military veterans are an integral part of the university and contribute enormously to the vitality of the business school,” said Dean Larry Pulley. “They are principled leaders with tremendous capacity, and I am excited about the ways that this new program will enable them to flourish as students and as executives in the civilian world. We are grateful for the vision that our generous donor brings to this initiative and the resources she is providing to this groundbreaking effort.”

The donor, an alumna who serves as a trustee of the William & Mary Foundation, said she sees an opportunity for the university to make a difference in the lives of those who have sacrificed so much and hopes that other donors will recognize the value in a coordinated approach to veteran education.

“These men and women put their lives at risk on our behalf while serving our country, and we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. Through this program, we can do our part to ensure their successful integration into life beyond the military,” she said. “I believe William & Mary is an ideal place to help them prepare for their next career.”

The Center for Veteran Transition will coordinate programs and facilitate access to vital resources for veterans and their family members including professional development and career guidance for members of the military transitioning into civilian-business roles, networking opportunities with the Mason School’s vast alumni veteran population and corporations interested in supporting military veterans, mentorship by those who have successfully moved from their time in service to the civilian world, and wellness programs available through a partnership with the on-campus wellness center.

Associate Professor of Information Systems Dr. Chon Abraham is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, served on active duty in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Reserves for 25 years, and currently serves as a reserve officer in the Chief Data Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. She sees tremendous value in the center providing programs and services to ease the transition for the school’s veteran population.

"Over the course of my career, I have counseled many military personnel prior to them transitioning off active duty, who are often anxious about the change in status, concerned about the impacts of the transition on their families, and unsure of awaiting opportunities," she said. "This center will provide professional development programs, mentorship, mental health resources for the soldier and their families, and career service programs will provide necessary resources that these veterans so deserve to enable them to transition their military skills and hone their capabilities for corporations that value their experience as leaders."

The Mason School is geographically well-poised to support the Center for Veteran Transition. The Hampton Roads region has more than 83,000 active duty military members serving – the highest concentration of military personnel outside of the Pentagon – and an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 of those service members transition from active duty service each year.

Currently, 170 of the 900 enrolled graduate business students at the Mason School are active duty or transitioning and represent the U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marines through a variety of avenues such as the Green to Gold program or unique broadening opportunities like the Major General James Wright Scholars program, an accelerated 15-month full-time MBA experience that was created in partnership with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

Former and current servicemembers studying in the residential programs have the opportunity to leverage their military experience by participating in the Mason Military Association, a club nested within the MBA Association, and supporting William & Mary’s U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. Veteran students also network with the many Executive Partners and faculty members who served or are still serving in the armed forces.

Associate Professor of Management David Long is also a Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves, serving as a Naval Flight Officer, and he believes the Center for Veteran Transition will augment the existing efforts the school has in place to better integrate veterans into the Tribe community.

"The Mason School embraces our military veterans, and this center will help exemplify that embrace and enhance the type of support we can offer. I hope that the military members of our community will grow to recognize that we have unique offerings and support that can help them as they navigate through and balance their service, education, and careers," he said.

William & Mary and the Mason School are consistently ranked as military-friendly. Recently, U.S. News & World Report placed William & Mary in their #18 spot for the 2020 rankings of the best colleges for veterans and the Online MBA program was named #22 on their list of best online MBA programs for veterans.

The school’s inclusion of enrolled active duty and veteran servicemembers is expanding so establishing the Center for Veteran Transition and the resources it will include will help support those students and their families. For example, the 2020-2021 class of Major General Wright Scholars includes 16 active duty army officers, nearly doubling the size of the previous year’s class and with the addition of the new Online Master’s in Marketing degree coupled with the 2018 gift from Virginia Beach-based philanthropist Jane P. Batten HON ‘17, the school anticipates the number of veterans enrolled in online business degree programs will grow.

“Military students are important members of our growing online community and many join us as they are figuring out what’s next after the military,” said Pam Suzadail, Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Center for Online Learning. “This new center demonstrates that the Mason School is invested in them beyond the classroom- we care about their success.”