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Intentional and Collaborative Collisions in the Stand-To Vet Leadership Program

A participant in the Bush Institute's Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program discusses the developing collaborations happening in his class.

Article by John Boerstler September 5, 2018 //   4 minute read

When I was selected to participate as a Scholar in the inaugural Bush Institute's Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program, I was excited to step out of my day-to-day routine and mix it up with fellow leaders in the military-veteran service space.

The day before it started however, I found myself stressed. It was a knee-jerk reaction after making a cursory calculation of how much I had to do, how much time this immersive leadership program would take, and how much time existed in between.

After completing the first module in Dallas however, I was glad I committed to the program.
Sure, the speakers were incredible. Leaders like President George W. Bush, Mrs. Laura Bush, General McChrystal, and Former VA Secretary Bob McDonald - household names to most of us and idols to some. But what I really appreciated after the first module, and still do after recently completing the third, are the fellow Scholars who I’ve come to know very well since meeting in June.

It’s truly the people who have made this experience impactful for me – and not just because we’re able to let off steam at the local karaoke bar after a long day of sessions -- but because we are collaborating together both inside and outside the program. By intentionally bringing the 33 of us together into a collaborative group, the Bush Institute has uniquely invested in the future of our small industry that will undoubtedly lead to incredible change.

And we’ve already made headway together. Whether I’m working with Amy Taft, who serves as the Director of the IVMF’s Onward to Opportunity program, and Dave Lee, who manages the veterans programming at CVS Health, to introduce experts from NCCER’s Hard Hat Heroes Program and the Virginia Values Veterans initiative to ensure more engineering and construction service members secure their credentials before they leave service by accessing their 18 base transition programs.

Or if it’s by talking to Jason Pak who runs Boeing’s veterans program about pipe-lining more military talent into their incredible manufacturing careers, or by connecting with colleagues half a world away in Ukraine with Cicely Burrows-McElwain at SAMHSA’s veterans program. We are all always thinking about intentional ways to collide and collaborate with one another, not just after we graduate in November 2018, but right now.

The most exciting thing is that we are just the first cohort of the Stand-To program. I am already thinking about which of my colleagues to nominate for the 2019 program so they can not only have a similar experience but get to work with other national leaders to solve complex problems.

We now have the opportunity to break down barriers of geography, issue or program focus, and in many ways, perceived competition, by intentionally colliding and collaborating in order to improve the lives of military and veteran families across the country and beyond. We will change the shape of the space together through collaboration.

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 as a default rather than a social service to the people who served our country. He is a member of the inaugural class of the George W. Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program.