Howard plans to double the number of student veterans from the current 210 that are enrolled. He notes that RMU is committed to placing veteran students in internships or co-ops with other like-minded companies that value military experience.

Joshua Caskey, an RMU graduate student and Purple Heart recipient who served two tours in Iraq as a Marine, says the university’s effort has paid dividends.

“My time at Robert Morris University has been such a positive experience. The small class sizes and one-on-one attention from the professors have been a key factor to my success at RMU. Also, the university’s focus on veterans’ needs has played a pivotal role in my success as a student,” Caskey said.

What became clear in our discussion is that veterans should view their choice of academic institution as part of their pipeline or virtuous cycle, rather than merely a place to land while they are figuring things out. By selecting academic institutions that understand their place in the transition process, veterans have a much greater likelihood of finding success in their civilian careers.

The Military Friendly® Schools program is designed to assist transitioning military in identifying institutions whose pipeline is known, established, resourced and constantly improving.

Suggestions for making your own evaluation include:

  1. How did they treat you in the interview? You can see the earnestness of the person interviewing you — they either understand or they want to understand.
  2. Does the school have a real infrastructure to support veterans? Do they have dedicated space, mentoring, financial counseling and career placement?
  3. How do they handle the paperwork during the application process? According to a survey of more than 1,000 student veterans, how a school approaches and handles paperwork is the key differentiator between a program that is real and one that is not.
  4. How soon do they engage you in career discussions? Do they help you think through the selection of a major based on what your goals are, do they understand what you did in the military and how that may impact your career goals?
  5. Is there a job waiting at graduation? What are their post-graduation employment outcomes, and do their job placements lead to jobs that are relevant for the major selected.

“You can hang your shingle and say you are Military Friendly®, but the proof is in the outcomes. If a school isn’t putting their own skin in the game, they aren’t serious.”

– Dr. Christopher Howard, 8th President of Robert Morris University


Before we dive in to this question, we have some ground-laying work to do, beginning with one of my biggest takeaways: “Forgive yourself.”

We’ll come back to this notion because Howard concluded our conversation with this critical piece of advice that I believe belongs here. Your military career is coming to an end. Perhaps you achieved everything you wanted. More than likely there is something more that you wish you could have achieved: if not rank, then an assignment; if not an assignment, perhaps a skill or degree; or honor, or award, or something that someone else managed to accomplish that you did not.

Start with forgiveness, for not reaching whatever goals you had hoped to achieve to date … and then ask yourself, “What do you want to do?” and “Who do you want to be?”

Howard has a way of simplifying and clarifying challenging topics and concepts, of cutting to the heart of a matter in a way that can be recalled and shared, and an uncanny ability to visualize what he is saying. He spoke of military transition to civilian life as a venn diagram. For those of us who have been out of school for awhile, that is essentially two or more overlapping circles — in this case representing what you do in the military and what you need to do outside.

“About 80 percent of it comes over … and there’s 20 percent that’s a little different: your mindset, how suasion works, how authority works…”