On Nov. 5, Fordham will open its doors to military veterans from throughout New York City, as it plays host to the eighth Annual Veteran Symposium, organized by Veterans on Wall Street (VOWS).

The symposium, which is free to attend, will be held at the Lincoln Center campus and will feature panel discussions on topics such as transition programs, career entry points, and entrepreneurship. There will also be workshops, such as one dedicated to improving ones’ LinkedIn profile.

General Martin Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will deliver a keynote speech. Loree K Sutton, M.D., founding commissioner for New York City’s Department of Veterans’ Services, and Bob Woodruff, TV journalist who was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq, will also speak.

An Emphasis on Spouses

Michael Smith, a conference organizer and chief privacy officer at HSBC, said that the symposium is as much about helping firms in the financial sector understand veterans’ needs as it is about veterans finding employment. This year, he said, there is more emphasis on spouses of veterans who are not veterans themselves. They are a largely untapped market for employers, and they face unique challenges due to the fact that they move whenever their service member spouse is transferred. But their unusual career paths shouldn’t be seen as an impediment.

“Setting up a career in that environment can be difficult. The goal is to help companies understand that military spouses are potential employees, and the fact that they’re just as diverse, educated, and capable as the rest of the work force,” he said.

This year’s symposium, which is also sponsored by the Bob Woodruff Foundation, HSBC, Citibank, and Wells Fargo, also differs from past ones in that workshops have replaced a job fair. Smith said the goal is to maximize the time that veterans have to talk one-on-one with corporate representatives. They may learn from their conversations that they’re more qualified for a position at a financial services firm than they realize.

“When they think of financial services, a lot of veterans may think it means being a broker on Wall Street, or maybe they think it means being a manager in a bank branch,” said Smith, who served in the U.S. Navy for nine years.

“But these companies have all different kinds of job opportunities out there, and we want them to get a really good sense of what they are, whether it’s in retail, in commercial banking, investment banking, risk and compliance, cybersecurity, or human resources.”

Highlighting Resources for Vets

For her talk, commissioner Sutton said that she planned to have a “fireside chat” with Gerry Byrne, vice chairman at Penske Media Corporation and a board member at the Bob Woodruff Foundation.  A big focus of their conversation, she said, will be VetConnectNYC, currently in pilot testing under the name NYServes-NYC, a new clearinghouse for resources for veterans.

This is the fourth symposium Sutton has attended, and she said that it has improved every year. In the beginning, the focus was on getting firms to understand the value veterans can bring them. The following year, it was on helping firms reach out to veterans. Now, the focus is on not just hiring veterans, but on retaining them, through mentorships and support networks. With 211,000 veterans living in the five boroughs alone, there is a huge need for these services here, she said.

“A lot of folks don’t put military or veteran friendly and New York City in the same sentence, or even in the same universe, but nothing could be further from the truth,” she said.

“We feel it’s real imperative for us to demonstrate how we here in New York City can really help with military transitions.”

In fact, she noted that financial services is the first industry that took an organized approach in how to compete for the talent of veterans and their families, and she said she hopes to replicate its approach with other industries. Fordham has played a major part as well.

“You all are making an enormous investment in student veterans and their family members, and it’s evident. … It makes a difference,” she said.

For more information and to register, visit the conference website.


Patrick Verel is a news producer for Fordham Now. He can be reached at [email protected] or (212) 636-7790.