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U.S. Air Force veteran and executive MBA student awarded for continuation of service

This Veterans Day, in the spirit of recognizing and honoring those who go above and beyond to serve their country and community, Cornell’s Veterans Colleague Network Group (VCNG) acknowledged one individual who transitioned from military service to become a dynamic force for positive change.

The VCNG Continuation of Service Award was presented to Jennifer Ross, an Executive MBA Metro NY candidate in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. Ross served in the United States Air Force as an intelligence specialist and spent much of her twenty-year career providing strategic guidance and support to Department of Defense leadership in various roles worldwide.

Jennifer Ross on her last deployment to Afghanistan.

“Winning this award came as a surprise,” Ross said. “The fact that other veterans are willing to take time out of their day to recognize others is the very reason I continue to want to support veterans. The veteran community is more than just a job; we become family, and it's this reason I continue to want to create opportunities for others to connect, find success and grow.”

The Continuation of Service Award was created in 2022 by the VCNG, which is Cornell’s employee resource group for veterans and military personnel. The award recognizes Cornell veterans for their dedication to leadership and service and celebrates those who have continued to serve even after their military careers by giving back to other veterans or making outstanding contributions to the Cornell community.

Today, Ross and team member Victor Vichith have established the Executive Student Veterans Association to create an avenue to collaborate with other student veterans in New York City and forge unique opportunities to network across various universities. Empowering Veterans NYC is dedicated to creating a transformative and uplifting experience by actively supporting student veterans through their academic and professional journeys.

Ross was nominated by Neva Hendry, a U.S. Air Force veteran and an Executive MBA Metro NY candidate at the Johnson School Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

“I have known Jenn since she began her military transition last year,” Hendry said. “Since then, she has dedicated herself to improving the veteran community through her career decisions and efforts at Cornell. She brings a positive outlook and desire to improve support for the veteran community beyond her years serving in uniform. Jenn continues to inspire me and others to be more involved in mentorship and drive impact in the community.”

Since Ross’s retirement, she has dedicated her time to support other veteran organizations and nonprofits by serving as an executive advisor to Sigma Forces, a military training provider, the vice president of Corporate Sponsorships and Grants for HKPO Veteran's Academy and an official Skill Bridge provider.

“As a veteran in the Cornell community, I feel passionate about sharing this wonderful opportunity with other veterans looking for their next chapter. The overwhelming support and camaraderie I feel with my classmates is similar to the connection I feel with my veteran family.” 

Jennifer Ross

Nominees CPT Anthony “Tony” Roach and Emily Franco were also recognized during the award ceremony for their individual achievements and contributions. Roach began working at Cornell in April 2022 and has taken on many initiatives to support veterans on campus.

“Tony is a new employee to the university,” Roach’s nominator said. “While introduced to the work of being the new dean of administration at the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, he has still taken on the leadership of the Cornell Veteran’s House as the community fellow. He is also leading the charge for the 2023 Veterans Day events.”

Franco was also acknowledged for her active and influential role in veterans groups across campus. 

“Emily Franco, director of the alliance between the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration and the Culinary Institute of America, has been and continues to be a tireless advocate for veterans at Cornell,” Franco’s nominator said. “From holding several leadership roles within the VCNG to being an active member of Team Red, White and Blue (RWB), Emily has been an integral part of the pioneering work that led to the current atmosphere of veteran support. Emily was a supporter of the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) nontraditional students program on behalf of veteran undergraduates. She then became the first advisor to the Cornell Undergraduate Veterans Association (CUVA). Her early work for undergraduate veterans through the VCNG helped improve the student experience we see today.”

This year, Cornell honored Veterans Day with events that included a Cornell military history walking tour, an appreciation luncheon, an honorary speaker (Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Kathleen Miller ’82) and the Cornell Chimes U.S. Armed Forces Branch of Service anthem concert. Cornell Athletics also honored Veterans at various athletic events throughout the month.

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