The following is an excerpt from a story that originally appeared in the fall 2022 issue of the W&M Alumni Magazine. – Ed.

Jamar Jenkins M.B.A. ’18, M.S.B.A. ’20, served in the U.S. Army as a company commander stationed at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia. While serving our nation on active duty, he was drawn to William & Mary both because of the university’s academic reputation and its long-standing tradition of supporting veterans and military members. And, he says, its reputation for getting results.

“I am only three years out of William & Mary,” says Jenkins, “with no corporate experience before coming to W&M — thanks to the support I received as a student and the experience of a William & Mary education, I’m now in an incredible job at an international firm. That wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for W&M’s commitment to ensuring veterans and military members thrive.”

William & Mary has a long history of supporting both veterans and active-duty members of the United States’ armed forces. In the last five years, the university’s capacity for providing resources, programs and network connections to the thousands of veterans in the W&M community has increased drastically thanks to philanthropic involvement, community engagement and motivated university administrators.

“Every year approximately 158,000 veterans transition out of the service — and 15,000, almost 10%, do so within a 60-minute drive of William & Mary,” says Jonathan “JD” Due, executive director of the Center for Military Transition at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. “Geographically and culturally, William & Mary is uniquely positioned to be a national leader to connect our veteran and military students with resources that will allow them to have untold positive impact in our communities.”

A person pulls on a rope in a wall
Phillip Sheldon ’21, former machine gunner for the U.S. Marine Corps, tolls the Wren Bell on Veterans Day 2020 after a ceremony marking the occasion. (Photo by Jim Agnew)

Community connections

William & Mary lies at the center of a national security hub — from Hampton Roads to Washington, D.C., the region is home to major military commands from all service branches, including nearly 100,000 active-duty and more than 500,000 veteran personnel, the highest concentration on the East Coast.

To better serve these populations, in fall 2019 William & Mary’s Office of Student Veteran Engagement (OSVE) opened as a two-year pilot program thanks to the generous support of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. Then in 2020, the university established a cutting-edge Veteran-to-Executive Transition program (VET) to support W&M’s veteran and active-duty students and to help those who serve our country transition successfully into the civilian workforce. W&M VET includes the Center for Military Transition, the Whole of Government Center of Excellence, and the OSVE, all of which became a reality through the generosity of an anonymous alumna. 

Veterans and military service members account for approximately 250 of the 900 students in graduate business degree programs, and more than 350 veterans and active-duty service members attend the university. Hundreds of other veterans and active-duty service members are enrolled in various certificate courses offered through the VET program.

“William & Mary is leading the way forward in the higher education sphere in supporting these populations,” says Kay Floyd ’05, director of W&M’s Whole of Government Center of Excellence (WGCE). Floyd received her undergraduate degree in government from W&M.

With a pioneering whole-of-university approach, she says, W&M is able to leverage resources across the university, its interdisciplinary strengths, online certificate and degree offerings and its expanding array of programs to support the men and women who have served our nation and who go on to lead in their communities.

People in military uniform and suits stand on steps in front of a brick building
President Rowe stands with members of the William & Mary veteran and active-duty military community before the annual Veterans Day bell-ringing ceremony in 2020. The bell is slowly tolled by a student veteran in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. (Photo by Jim Agnew)

For example, W&M’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business and the Center for Mindfulness and Authentic Excellence offered a June 2022 pilot certificateprogram, “Flourishing in Life Transitions.” The program hosted 20 transitioning service members and, according to Due, feedback was extremely positive.

Now, Floyd says, as the university aims to expand W&M’s reach, evolve to excel and educate for impact as part of the new strategic Vision 2026 plan, “With the help of increased philanthropic support, William & Mary is poised to achieve even more in the years to come.”

Floyd explains the university-wide focus of these programs through the lens of the WGCE, which works across the university to assist with training, education and research related to national security. “That could be the education of a lieutenant colonel seeking to complete one of our certificates in strategic broadening,” she says. “It could be the undergraduate wanting to undertake research in government or it could be the student veteran wanting to pursue an internship that could completely change their career.”

Additionally, the WGCE acts as a vital hub for all things W&M and national security: career partners, the military and federal agencies, military alliances, undergraduate internships and organizations that provide grants to the university.

The VET program seeks to augment additional offerings and services throughout W&M’s schools and departments. Other W&M programs and assets include the Army War College Fellows Program in cooperation with the Public Policy Program; Military and Veterans Counseling Specialization and Troops to Teachers program at the W&M School of Education; mindfulness and wellness programs at the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center; Major General James M. Wright Fellows Program at the Business School; Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic at the W&M School of Law; the Military Science Department and United States Army’s Reserve Officers Training Corps; United States Coast Guard Auxiliary University Program, Unit William & Mary; and information on using veteran’s education benefits through the Office of the University Registrar.

Another critical organization in the network of programs and resources for veterans and military is the alumni-led Association of 1775 (Ao75), an affinity group for William & Mary alumni who have previously served or are actively serving across the U.S. government. In addition to events such as the popular Ao75 breakfast during Homecoming & Reunion Weekend, Ao75 is a critical way the university and the W&M Alumni Association engage with the broader community of active-duty service members, civil servants and alumni veterans.

As a special note, Ao75 will be hosting a Veteran’s Day reception at the National Museum of the U.S. Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Nov. 10. More information will be available soon, and veterans in the area are encouraged to attend.

Additionally, the ringing of the Wren Bell has become a Veterans Day tradition at William & Mary. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, a William & Mary student veteran will ring the Wren Bell slowly to commemorate Armistice Day, the original inspiration for Veterans Day. Attendees are encouraged to gather in the Wren Yard to observe the ringing of the bell as all around the nation, bells toll in unison.

Read the rest of the story and see more photos on the W&M Alumni Magazine website.

Editor’s note: Democracy is one of four cornerstone initiatives in W&M’s Vision 2026 strategic plan. Visit the Vision 2026 website to learn more.