SPL is collaborating with SU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science and Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) on a series of multi-method veterans research projects that are providing critical data on attitudes toward the post-secondary education of former military personnel.

Veterans Affairs Research Products

From ‘Broken Heroes’ to Public Servants: Transforming Persistent Myths about Post-9/11 Veterans

By Rosalinda Maury, IVMF; Corri Zoli, SPL; and Danny Fay, FSU

Presentation to the Student Veterans of America National Conference 2019 | Orlando, FL, Jan. 3-5, 2019,

Student Veterans: A Valuable Asset to Higher Education (2018)

By Rosalinda Maury, IVMF, & Corri Zoli, SPL

Presentation to the 2018 NYS Advisory Council on Military Education Annual Conference | Syracuse University, Sept. 27, 2018

Civil & Military Relations Gap: America’s Disconnect with Its Military (2017)

By COL Mike McFadden, SPL/Army War College Report

Many scholars in the field of civilian and military relations focus on a gap between senior civilian and military leadership.  In this paper, McFadden focuses on that gap as it pertains to the American population and the disconnect that exists with the people who serve in our Armed Forces. 

Missing Perspectives: Servicemembers Transition from Service to Civilian Life (2015)

By Corri Zoli, Rosalinda Maury, & Daniel Fay

Developed with generous support from a Google Global Impact Award and in dialogue with our partners—the Student Veterans of America (SVA), the Posse Foundation, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)—this summary report uses an interdisciplinary, data-driven approach to understand how today’s Post-9/11 military servicemembers are faring in their transition processes, especially in higher education.

View the Missing Perspectives Webpage

Modernizing Benefits: Supporting Veterans & the Federal Budget (2015)

By LTC Patricia Hagen, SPL/Army War College Report

This paper discusses issues of supporting an All Volunteer Force and also will provide a brief overview of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system’s current practices and trends in benefit claims. It then recommends possible courses of action with respect to military retirement and benefits reform as well as VA disability benefits. Ultimately, this paper advocates that a national policy must be implemented to benefit the military and our society as a whole.

Building Awareness of ETETE Careers, Pathways, & Academic Preparation for Service Members: Recommendations for Navigating Opportunities & Challenges (2013)

By Corri Zoli & Laura Steinberg (Prepared for the National Science Foundation and American Society for Engineering Education)

See also: NSF Workshop 2013: Transitioning Veterans to Engineering-Related Careers (National Science Foundation/American Society for Engineering Education)

From Battlefield to Classroom: Finding Barriers & Pathways to Engineering for US Servicemembers (2011)

By Laura J. Steinberg, Nick Armstrong , & Corri Zoli (Prepared for the National Science Foundation)

Service to Student Survey

View this project's webpage

With support from IVMF, a Google Global Impact Award, and the National Science Foundation, researchers at SPL, IVMF, and Student Veterans of America (SVA) have designed and implemented a national research project to study factors that influence military veterans’ post-secondary educational success.

The research builds entirely new national datasets that prioritize servicemembers’ perspectives. This research also reviews and identifies the limits of national datasets on veterans housed at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, census.gov, National Center for Education Statistics, and the US Department of Defense. By developing its own national datasets, the research team has augmented these existing federal data with original multi-method research, including structured and open surveys, interviews, and campus visits.

The research is divided into two studies. Study One focuses on servicemembers’ post-service life, experiences, and challenges within post-secondary education, while Study Two garners academic leaders’ perspectives from 451 institutions, asking schools how they manage programs and services for their military students.

Among the research innovations embedded in their study of veterans’ post-service transitions, the research team has targeted a population that has never before been broadly surveyed about its educational experience, and it has created one of the largest datasets on veterans’ experiences in education and a comprehensive, up-to-date database of veteran-focused educational programs.

“This work will help us inform the veterans’ community, academia, and others about how to best support veterans working toward educational success,” says PI Corri Zoli. “Ultimately, we hope that our data will help us identify pathways for success and share institutional best practices with colleges and training programs.”

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Research Team
  • Corri Zoli (Primary InvestigatorDirector of Research, SPL
  • Rosalinda Maury,Director of Applied Research and Analytics, IVMF
  • Daniel Fay, Assistant Professor of Public Management, Mississippi State University
  • Nick Armstrong, Director of Research, IVMF
  • Gary Shaheen, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Director of Community Based Technical Support Initiatives

The results of this research arise from responses from more than 8,000 Post 9-11 veterans; more than 1,000 colleges and universities; a review of the literature that was in excess of 500 sourced documents; and information obtained from focus groups conducted at over 20 academic institutions.

Much of the data is still being analyzed, but as of October 2015 certain conclusions already can be drawn from Study One: Veterans’ Perceptions of Transition, Higher Education, and Success“It is evident that the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides up to 36 months of education benefits for veterans, is the most common motivation for individuals to join the military, along with a desire to serve one’s country,” says Corri Zoli. “And we find that the Bill has continuing public benefits beyond motivating military service …”

An increasingly technical military is leading to servicemembers being more likely to pursue STEM education and careers than the civilian population.

  • Female veterans are more likely to pursue STEM degrees post-service.
  • A veteran is more likely to select a public sector job post-service.
  • Those with service-connected injuries report being more likely to pursue education “to help society.”

However, servicemembers report a number of challenges to pursuing post-secondary education, including …

  • Difficulty bridging the gap between their experiences and a “traditional” students’ understanding of military life.
  • Difficulty in navigating bureaucracy.
  • The expense of getting a college degree.
Study #1: Veterans’ Perceptions of Transition, Higher Education, & Success

This survey was designed and disseminated to gather information on service members and their families’ educational experiences, challenges, and pathways to post-service success, including STEM education. By collecting and analyzing this data, the research team will identified “best practices” for service members and their families at colleges, universities, and training programs across the US, that will inform the veterans’ community, academia, and government about how to best support veterans’ educational attainment.

Study #2: Academic Institutions’ Perceptions of Transition, Higher Education, & Success

This survey was designed and disseminated to gather information from institutions of higher education about the methods and processes and challenges and successes in serving military service members throughout the entire education life cycle. These included the cycles of recruitment, enrollment, and inclusion in campus life, and veteran-specific programs and services, career services, professional development, alumni relations, and STEM-focused curricula and career opportunities.

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  1. A Data-Driven Approach to Veterans’ Transition: Education, Employment, and Post-Service Success”—presented by  Corri Zoli and Rosalinda Maury—was a prominent address at the 40th annual conference of National Association of Veterans Program Administrators (NAVPA), held from October 5 to 9, 2015 in Nashville, TN. Given the demand by attendees to hear about the team’s research, NAVPA leadership asked the team to present their findings in three consecutive addresses.
  2. In February 2015, the SPL/IVMF research team presented its preliminary findings at the 2015 NASPA Veterans Conference (Feb. 8-10, 2015) in Louisville, KY. “Policy Implications of Data-Driven Research: Findings and Future Questions” explained how the team has developed a unique, evidence-based picture of student veterans and military students in their educational aspirations and experiences. The presentation team was Corri Zoli; Rosalinda Maury; Daniel Fay; and Margaret Stearns, Director of Financial Aid, SU University College.
  3.  In April 2015, Corri Zoli, Daniel Fay, and Rosalinda Maury published “In Search of Post-9/11 Veterans’ Missing Perspectives” in War on the Rocks.

National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Projects

As the veterans population increases with the end of US campaigns in Afghanistan and elsewhere, work under SPL’s NSF grants rely on several critical working assumptions:

  • The post-9/11 GI Bill is an opportunity not only for veterans but for universities, engineering and STEM sectors, and the US as a whole.
  • Women and men of the US armed forces are a national resource in technical capacity, training, and leadership, and they have the potential to form the backbone of future US technical innovation.
  • The US armed forces represent an unprecedented demographic that promises a talented and diverse pipeline for higher education.
  • Taxpayer investment in the GI Bill can transform the US economy, much like the original 1944 GI Bill, not only by helping to train the nation’s workforce but also by enhancing higher education infrastructure and maximizing long-term collaboration among government, defense sectors, and STEM fields.

NSF PROJECT 1: From Battlefield to Classroom—Designing Pathways to Engineering for American GIs

Award #0948147 EEC (Engineering Education)

SPL has partnered with SU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science to empirically understand veterans’ higher educational aspirations, particularly in the science, technological, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

SPL’s dataset is one of the only—and certainly one of the most robust—national datasets examining what active duty service members and separated veterans hope to do academically and in their careers after their service to the nation. One critical challenge of war is to resettle veterans of the armed forces into productive civilian roles and professions. Such an obligation repays soldiers for their service and significant sacrifice.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill—the benefits of which begin Aug. 1, 2009—offers the most comprehensive education benefits package since the original GI Bill of 1944, providing a range of opportunities and services for veterans and dependents. It is believed that many GIs will emerge from their military experiences with skill sets pitched toward technical fields and will even favor engineering education. The opportunity exists for this group to be instrumental in our nation’s now urgent need for future scientists and engineers. In joining these trends at this critical juncture in time, it is imperative that planning and implementation for the influx of GIs into academia hinge upon projections about GIs’ goals, aspirations, and likely behavior that are informed by a sound evidentiary base.

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Read the project overview


NSF PROJECT 2: Battlefield Perceptions of Engineering—An Institutional Response to Absent Pathways and Missing Engineering Students

Award #1037777 EEC (Engineering Education)


For this initiative, SPL in partnership with the SU College of Engineering and Computer Science, has tried to understand the implications of its empirical data: for bringing together higher-educational institutions, veterans advocacy organizations, and public and private sector partners to gain traction on veterans’ needs; develop recommendations for supports and services at universities; and design higher-education customized programs for veterans, among other initiatives.

World War II veterans formed the backbone of an era in which the US became a technological powerhouse and global superpower. As Edward Humes, author of Over Here: How the G.I. Bill Transformed the American Dream, notes 14 Nobel Prize winners, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, and 450,000 engineers got their start with GI Bill benefits. Through that process the US reaped many benefits, including the democratization of universities, conversion to a nation of homeowners, and the expansion of the middle class from 10% to 30%. These developments required two linked mechanisms: the historic 1944 GI Bill, which educated nearly 8 million veterans, and the availability of meaningful educational and professional pathways for students.

This project aims to boost the second mechanism by developing programs that establish and strengthen meaningful pathways to engineering at Syracuse University, with implications for other universities and STEM programs for underrepresented populations

Read the project overview


A National Veterans Strategy



SU’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and SPL have developed a policy report that details what the authors describe as a “historic opportunity” related to the potential for public and private sector collaboration in support of veterans and their families. The report—“A National Veterans Strategy: The Economic, Social and Security Imperative”—brings together academic research with contributions from a broad cross-section of public and private sector stakeholders, to develop a logical and researched case for the social, economic and security-based interests served by a whole-of-the-nation National Veterans Strategy.


News Coverage

Veterans Affairs Partnerships

SPL partners with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF)—a national center in higher education focused on the social, economic, education, and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service—to conduct and disseminate research relevant to veterans and their families.

SPL Founding Director William C. Banks is a Distinguished Fellow of the IVMF and SPL Deputy Director Robert B. Murrett is a Board Member.


SPL students have an opportunity to work with the Veterans Legal Clinic at SU College of Law, working with real clients on such matters as assisting with VA claims, representing clients in VA claim appeals, and helping veterans in upgrading discharges.

The clinic was created by two SPL alums:  Syracuse Law alumni Tom Caruso, L’14  (a 2014 graduate of SPL’s Curricular Program in National Security and Counterterrorism Law) and Josh Keefe, L’14 (a 2014 recipient of SPL’s Certificate of Advanced Study in Security Studies).


The CNY Veterans Higher Education Regional Consortium is a collaboration among higher education institutions and regional stakeholders dedicated to supporting veterans. The goal of the Consortium is to facilitate a coordinated response to veteran reintegration to Central New York. The Consortium is committed to advocacy, resource and information sharing, and veteran outreach.


In 2012, SPL and the Syracuse Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center launched a new partnership to develop opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to collaborate and conduct public policy research on topics impacting the health care of veterans and military families in the VAMC’s catchment. SPL leads a Masters of Public Administration Capstone Project for the VAMC to analyze local veteran demographic patterns, demand for health care services, and distributed health care delivery models.


(NSS) is a premier professional development program that offers executive education courses for senior civilian and military leaders who are responsible for the national security interests of their respective organizations. NSS was founded in 1996 and is headquartered at the top-ranked Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at SU.


Team Red White and Blue (RWB) aims to transform the way America supports its wounded veterans when they return from active duty, by creating a community of veterans, their families, and American citizens who can enjoy authentic social interaction and shared experiences through activities and events all across America. SPL Research Fellow Nicholas J. Armstrong is a volunteer director of veterans outreach and athlete with the local Central New York chapter and serves on the Empire State Marathon race committee.


The Syracuse University Veterans Affinity Group’s mission is to create an engaging community and develop cross-campus partnerships in an effort to support the University’s military-connected employees and students: @SUVetsAffinity.