Press Release

Inaugural Class of Bush Institute Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program Graduates

33 scholars participated in six-month cross-country program to improve veteran outcomes.

Inaugural Class of Bush Institute Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program Graduates

33 scholars participated in six-month cross-country program to improve veteran outcomes


Dallas, Texas — Today, the inaugural class of the George W. Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program, made up of 33 individuals serving our nation’s veterans who are motivated to broaden their skillsets, knowledge, and influence across the country, will graduate from the first-of-its-kind program at the Bush Center in Dallas.

As part of the closing ceremony for the six-month program, President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush will host the graduating Stand-To scholars for a roundtable conversation followed by a reception and dinner this evening.

Throughout the program’s sessions, participants have traveled to Dallas, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. and heard from a variety of nationally known and distinguished professionals, educators, and experts in post-9/11 veteran transition issues and leadership development including: General Peter Chiarelli, Senator Elizabeth Dole, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, General Stanley McChrystal, Former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald, Former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, and U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie.

Stand-To scholars are rising leaders – both veterans and non-veterans – from a wide range of sectors who are working to improve post-9/11 veteran outcomes. Throughout the program, each participant has worked on a personal leadership project, which allows them to implement what they learn in the program in service of improving veteran outcomes across the United States.

The 2018 Class of the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program includes:

  • John Boerstler serves as the Executive Director of NextOp Veterans and is the founder of Combined Arms, a nonprofit that works to unite the veteran and civilian community in order to accelerate the impact of veterans on the cities they return to by increasing accountability, speed, and efficiency by which veteran serving organizations deliver services. With John’s involvement in Stand-To, he is working to build and scale the Combined Arms model that communities can use to ensure that no veteran ever falls through the cracks in social services again.
  • Mary Beth Bruggeman serves as Vice President of Program Strategy for The Mission Continues, an organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. Through her participation in Stand-To, Mary Beth is working to maximize women veterans’ success as leaders through a program that combines skills development for women veterans with mentorship and skills transfer to women in under-resourced communities.
  • Blaire Bush is a workshop facilitator for the AFX Group, an organization that works to educate and assist veterans in career readiness. With her participation in Stand-To, Blaire is hoping to increase spouse participation in her transition workshops to improve and enhance employment preparedness among veterans and their spouses.
  • Cicely Burrows-McElwain is the Senior Public Health Advisor for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Cicely currently works to advance veteran outcomes through government department collaboration to address the mental health and substance use needs of military members and veterans and their families. Through her involvement in Stand-To, she is working to enhance the screening protocols for at risk veterans within healthcare systems.
  • Richard Casper is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of CreatiVets, a nonprofit that provides art, music, and writing programs for combat veterans with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. During Stand-To, Richard hopes to expand and scale the CreatiVets songwriting program by partnering with music schools from around the country.
  • Anne Meree Craig is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of The COMMIT Foundation, an organization working to create serendipity for high-performing post-9/11 veterans through mentoring workshops, one on one transition program, and corporate education. With her involvement in Stand-To, Anne Meree wants to reorient veteran services organizations by ensuring they focus on the quality of their services rather than the quantity served.
  • Tiffany Daugherty is the Head of Military and Veteran Affairs at First Data Corporation, where she continuously works to increase the impact on employment of veterans and military spouses. Through Stand-To, she is working to improve pathways and reduce barriers to access to the best Wall Street jobs for veterans and military spouses. She is modeling this pathway through the implementation of First Data’s Military-Affiliated Analyst Program and will leverage the findings from that program to influence the industry.
  • Jonathon Field is the Deputy Director of Veteran Education Programs at the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, which approves programs for GI Bill funding. Through Stand-To, Jonathon is working to unite the sharing of best practices on retaining veteran employees by helping to facilitate a Veterans Consortium within Central Ohio.
  • Duane France is the Director of Veteran Services at Family Care Center and the Executive Director of the Colorado Veterans Health and Wellness Agency, an affiliated 501(c)3 Nonprofit. He is also the founder of Head Space and Timing, a multimedia organization dedicated to changing the way that service members, veterans, their families, and their communities think and talk about veteran mental health. With his involvement in Stand-To, Duane is working to reduce barriers to veterans seeking mental health support by sharing the knowledge and experience of mental health professionals through technology, social media, and content creation.
  • Jennifer Goetz founded the Office of Military and Veteran Services at Washington University, where she works at all levels of the institution to advocate for and support the university’s military-connected students. With her involvement in Stand-To, Jennifer is working to build capacity among higher education professionals serving military-connected students throughout the St. Louis region. Her goal is to build collective momentum and improve outcomes for these professionals, in turn improving outcomes for the students they serve.
  • Blake Hogan is the Executive Director of Bunker Labs, a nonprofit dedicated to serving military and military family entrepreneurs. With his participation in Stand-To, Blake is working to expand Bunker Labs to all fifty states to have a robust professional network for veterans across the country.
  • Jonathan Horowitch is the President and CEO of Easterseals DC MD VA, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting veterans, active duty service members, and their families as part of serving the entire community. With his participation in Stand-To, Jonathan is growing The Veteran Staffing Network, a sustainable solution for veteran and military spouse employment that, at scale, will not require government and philanthropic funding.
  • Michael Hutchings is the Chief Development Officer for the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, where he handles national account management, organizational strategy, and diversifying streams of revenue in order to continue to support military and first responder families. With his involvement in Stand-To, Michael is building a mobile application that offers opportunities for respite and relief by geographic location for the military caregiver community.
  • Lyla Kohistany is the President and Co-Founder of PROMOTE, a nonprofit dedicated to educating service members on the power of inclusive and diverse teams to create innovative solutions. During the Stand-To program, Lyla is working to illuminate the challenges service women and women spouses face in finding a sense of belonging, both while serving and after their transition to civilian life. Through a series of educational dinner events, women will develop a supportive network by breaking bread, sharing stories, and forging friendships.
  • David Lee is the Director of Military Programs at CVS Health. He leads the effort to help the company improve engagement and gain insights from the patients, customers, candidates and colleagues who are part of the military community. With his participation in Stand-To, David is working to improve the programs and processes in the company that will help transitioning service members with a goal to increase hiring and retention of people with military experience.
  • Bart Lomont is the Co-Founder and COO of Robin Technologies Incorporated. Through Stand-To, Bart is working to create franchise opportunities for veterans through his robotic lawn maintenance franchise. He is focusing on why veterans are not moving forward and identifying solutions to taking the next step forward.
  • Christina K. Lowhorn is the Veteran Small Business Manager on the Military and Veterans Affairs (MVA) Office at JP Morgan Chase. Through Stand-To, Christina is launching Corporate Distillery, a Facebook page that provides straightforward, actionable, and fact-based content designed to help veterans understand corporate America and succeed post-placement.
  • Abby Malchow is a Commodity Manager of Cloud and Software at Intel Corporation and she serves on the board she helped create for American Veterans at Intel Corporation. Abby will be transitioning to Amazon in December 2018 as Senior Manager of Military Affairs. Through her participation in Stand-To, Abby is dedicated to reducing suicide among her fellow veterans.
  • Ryan Manion is currently the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, a nationally recognized Veteran Service Organization that empowers veterans and families of the fallen to instill character in the next generation. Through Stand-To, Ryan is working to train and support veterans and community members to unite together and inspire the next generation of servant leaders.
  • Saul Martinez is the Director of Warrior Services at Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation. He is currently working on achieving positive outcomes in better mental health, improved sense of purpose, improved relationships and support networks through therapeutic fly-fishing in Bozeman, Montana. During the Stand-To program he will continue his work while focusing on consistent and meaningful follow-ups with veterans.
  • Chris Meek is the Senior Director of Global Relationship Management at S&P Global. With participation in Stand-To, Christopher is continuing to work on his nonprofit which provides medical devices to injured veterans as well as provide scholarship funds to help supplement the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
  • Meaghan Mobbs is a Clinical Psychology Doctoral student at Colombia University. She is studying veterans in psychotherapy and is conducting veteran research. With her involvement in Stand-To, Meaghan is focusing on understanding the stressors of military to civilian transition and is working to ease the transition our veterans face.
  • Kimberly Moros is the Chief of Career Transitions for the United States Special Operations Command and is responsible for assisting the wounded, ill, or injured Special Operations veterans in their transitions. With her participation in Stand-To, Kimberly is focusing on the needs of women service members by conducting an exploratory survey to collect data regarding different aspects of women’s military experiences and to identify why women have a shorter continuation rate than men. After analysis of the survey, she will produce a discussion paper to address innovative strategies on how the military can maintain talented women within their ranks.
  • Jason Pak is the Senior Manager for Boeing Global Engagement and is responsible for creating and executing the engagement strategy for veterans at Boeing. Through is participation in Stand-To, Jason is working to fully integrate 35 different veteran employee groups within Boeing in order to provide a best-in-class model to better serve Boeing employees, military veterans, and their families.
  • William Parker is the Senior Quality Improvement Coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and works to constantly improve patient outcomes and quality of care. With his time in the Stand-To program, William is building a comprehensive healthcare-specific employment program in Central Ohio that focuses on educating and preparing veterans for open opportunities, while also educating partner healthcare organizations on the value of hiring veterans.
  • Dan Pflieger has served as Executive Director of the Salute Military Golf Association from 2014 – 2018 and currently sits on the Board of Directors. During Stand-To, Dan has researched a more effective way to measure program and veteran outcomes to highlight the impact recreational therapy has on the health and wellness of our veterans, service members, and their families.
  • Michael Richardson is the Vice President of all mental and brain health programs for the Wounded Warrior Project, which works to improve the resilience and psychological well-being of veterans. During the Stand-To program, Michael is continuing to change the way mental health is approached. He is focusing on not only the veteran but also the family as well, and is constantly adapting to new techniques.
  • Christine Schwartz is the COO of Service to School (S2S), a nonprofit focused on helping veterans apply and gain admission to top universities and ensuring veterans have the access and opportunity to attend the best college or graduate school possible. During her participation in Stand-To, Christine has worked to grow and scale the number of veterans that S2S provides support and mentorship to through the implementation of a technology solution.
  • Charles Sevola Jr. is the Vice President and Head of Veterans Initiative at Prudential Financial. He currently formulates and executes the Veteran Strategy at Prudential.  Through Stand-To, Charles continues working on and enhancing the five pillars that his veteran programs use: Education and Employment, Employee Engagement, Thought Leadership, Corporate Giving, and Veterans and Military Business Support.
  • Amy Taft is the Director of Curriculum and Learning at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, where she is responsible for maintaining and updating all program content. During her participation in Stand-To, Amy is working to create a comprehensive curriculum to train communities how to set up ongoing peer to peer support groups for children of wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans.
  • Brian Thompson is the Management and Program Analyst for the U.S. Department of Education, where he leads the Department’s Military Affairs Team. Through Stand-To, Brian is serving as the U.S. Department of Education’s subject matter expert on various federal initiatives and programs that work to advance veteran outcomes.
  • Kevin Walton is currently a Systems Engineer at Boeing where he provides technical oversight and management for system product verification. During his participation in Stand-To, Kevin is helping women veterans increase their resiliency and self-sufficiency through local forums that provide access and increase knowledge of local community, business, and academic resources.
  • Michelle Zook is a Constituent Services Manager and Veteran Affairs Policy Lead for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. With her participation in Stand-To, Michelle is working to assist veterans in cutting through red tape, assisting them to get the benefits they earned, while also working on the legislative side.


Applications are open now until January 15, 2019 for the second class of the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program. The program is part of the Bush Institute’s commitment to developing and supporting effective leaders and builds on the Bush Institute’s extensive body of work on veteran transition issues. The Bush Center gratefully acknowledges the support of The Boeing Company as the Founding Program Underwriter.



About the George W. Bush Institute

Housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the George W. Bush Institute is an action-oriented, nonpartisan policy organization with the mission of developing leaders, advancing policy, and taking action to solve today’s most pressing challenges. Through three Impact Centers – Domestic Excellence, Global Leadership, and an Engagement Agenda – the Bush Institute delivers measurable results that save and improve lives. To learn more, visit