Career Professional Education Student Success Veterans

Unique SMU Programs Help Veterans Transition to the Classroom and Workplace

DALLAS (SMU) – While serving as an amphibious assault vehicle operator in far-flung locations ranging from Jordan to Haiti to Somalia, Victor Acosta ensured that his fellow Marines made safe transitions from ship to shore. Inspired to enlist in the Marines by his older sister, a veteran of both the U.S. Army and Air Force, Acosta thrived on the structure, camaraderie and travel that defined his military service.

“I gained a life experience that enabled me to see the world differently,” he says.

Now, with the help of SMU’s Catalyst military transition program, he also sees how his military experience gives him unique skills to offer in the classroom and in business.

He completed in June the eight-week military-to-civilian transition program offered by SMU’s Continuing and Professional Education (CAPE) and will transition in January (with credits already earned) to the online MBA program offered by SMU’s Cox School of Business.

“Catalyst opened so many doors and opportunities for me,” he said. “It made me realize we are underselling ourselves as part of the military – veterans bring marketable skills to the table.”

Robert Hurst, a U.S. Army veteran, directs veterans affairs for CAPE. “The key thing missing from most military transition programs is how to leverage the skills gained in the military in the classroom or on the job,” he says. “Catalyst helps veterans develop a personal brand, gain professional experience and earn a certificate in project management, something they probably have been doing throughout their military careers.”

“Providing opportunities for veterans and their spouses is our way of saying thank you,” he says.

The Catalyst Program at SMU is an 8-week virtual program designed to guide U.S. military veterans through the transition process from service to the classroom or workforce. Participants learn how to transfer skills developed in military service – such as leadership and time management – to the workforce by participating in case studies with businesses. In addition, they earn graduate credits toward an MBA and a certificate in project management. Veterans may use their education benefits to fund the full cost of the program.

Multiple certificate options

Veterans’ education benefits may be applied to 19 professional certificate programs offered by SMU’s Continuing and Professional Education program. Online certificate programs include cybersecurity, data science, marketing, sales and paralegal studies.

Certificate programs offer opportunities to study a focused topic in a shorter time frame than a degree, add a higher education experience and help participants gain a competitive edge in the job market, Hurst says.

In addition, SMU’s Continuing Education program is one of a handful approved by Veterans Affairs for spouses of active-duty service members, Hurst says. Spouses eligible for the $4,000 My Career Advancement Account Scholarship may apply it to three of the certificate programs at SMU that Veterans Affairs describes as “portable fields,” The paralegal studies, project management and user experience design certificate programs are eligible for MyCAA scholarships.

As a Yellow Ribbon school, SMU participates in the Post 9/11 GI Bill. For those eligible, these benefits cover almost 70 percent of tuition and fees for undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, SMU hosts student groups specifically tailored to veteran students, such as SMU MilVets and Veterans in Business.

SMU recently earned the special designation of a Military Friendly School for its outreach and engagement efforts. The designation recognizes an organization’s “commitment, effort and success in creating sustainable and meaningful benefit for the military community.”


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