Maximizing the impact of those who serve the military-connected community

Learn more about Kristin Kent Spanos.
Kristin Kent Spanos
Senior Program Manager, Research and Evaluation
George W. Bush Institute

A Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program case study

Training and supporting effective and compassionate leaders are core to the George W. Bush Institute’s work. Values-based leaders drive social change and build more equitable communities while advancing great ideas.

Government programs and initiatives, corporations, millions of individuals, and more than 45,000 philanthropic organizations are committed to improving veterans’ quality of life. However, we see misalignment, duplication, confusion, and gaps in providing effective services to transitioning veterans and their families. Additionally, effective leadership training for those responsible for implementing the programs and policies is missing.

The Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program develops the skills of leaders who are called to serve our Nation’s veterans and their families. Veteran Leadership Program participants, or Scholars, address the challenges many veterans and their family members experience such as access to mental health care, education, and employment. After four years and 176 Scholars, we wanted to better understand the impact of
the program on its graduates.

A team of evaluators from the Bush Institute and Syracuse University’s D’Aniello Institute for Veterans & Military Families collected interview and survey data from program alumni of the first two cohorts, as well as survey data, interviews, and observations of the third and fourth cohorts while they were in the program. They also collected feedback from supervisors and colleagues (360 data points) on six of our alumni interviewees to understand how their learnings have translated back into their jobs and lives. The evaluation team used a mixed methods approach to combine quantitative and qualitative data to produce this case study—quotes may have been edited for length or clarity.

We highlight five program components that are critical to developing leaders through the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program:

1. Our approach to connecting the Veteran Leadership Program network

The program connects diverse leaders who support each other, challenge each other’s perspectives, and advance each other’s impact on the veteran and military space through feedback and networks. Ninety-six percent of Scholars agree that their professional network gives them access to the people and opportunities they need to achieve impact for veterans and military families.

2. Strong leadership development content

The program features a unique curriculum developed from today’s foremost thinking and research on leadership and designed to teach participants the essential skills to be impactful leaders in the veteran space. Over 90% of program alumni indicated that through participating in the program, they gained leadership skills that improved their ability to make a difference in the lives of others.

3. Activities and speakers that inspire program participants to achieve greater impact

Participation in the program inspires Scholars to adopt a more expansive view of their roles as leaders and their capacity to meaningfully impact the lives of others. Scholars engage with a variety of guest speakers and faculty, including former presidential administration officials and leaders in the military and veteran, business, and nonprofit sectors. Past speakers have included former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, astronaut Commander Victor Glover, and Alex Gorsky, Executive Chairman of Johnson & Johnson and April and Jay Graham Fellow at the Bush Institute. After completing the program, 91.1% of Scholars indicated that they were inspired to achieve the impact they envision for the military-connected community.

4. Access to key resources

The program provides Scholars with access to the resources they need to expand their leadership capacity and drive change for veterans and military families – including key network connections, leadership tools, and sources of funding. Ninety-four percent of alumni strongly agree or agree that the access to resources provided through the Veteran Leadership Program assisted their development and success as a leader.

5. The use of a personal leadership project as a teaching tool

Scholars enter the program with a personal leadership project – a unique, scalable project with the potential to positively impact the military-connected community. These projects allow Scholars an opportunity to apply their newly acquired skills to their own work. Scholar projects have advanced policy, created critical partnerships, and resulted in life-changing outcomes in the military-connected community.

We hope this case study provides a clear picture of how we approach leadership development at the Bush Institute and describes the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program’s impact.

Download the case study (PDF)