UT launches program for veterans, military families as they adjust to civilian life

Hope Unger, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 22, 2022 flipbook.

UT started a new program earlier this month designed to support military veterans and their spouses as they transition back to civilian life by offering training for various careers. 

The Center for Professional Education and the Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness joined together to launch the University of Texas Oscar Mike program, named after a common military phrase meaning “on the move.” UTOM will consist of three online credentialing programs in project management, human resources management and becoming a personal trainer that will be offered to veterans or their spouses this summer, said Liliya Spinazzola, the senior director of professional education and strategic initiatives.

Through these programs, former military members and their spouses can gain the skills needed to take any required exam that will provide them with certain workplace certifications, she said. 

“There’s a lot of folks that are facing that identity challenge as you transition out of the military,” said Laurianne Rodriguez, the veteran spouse transition program coordinator at the Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness. “What we’re trying to do here is talk to folks, level with them and ease the process.”

Spinazzola said the UTOM program started because there was an urgency in supporting transitioning service members. She said her prior experience in military outreach through Texas Extended Campus aided her in helping shape the program. 

“It’s kind of like a dual program,” Spinazzola said. “Not only are you learning the skill sets, you are also running the project in the classroom because we are dividing them in teams, and they’re running a real project just like what they would be doing in a corporate environment.”

Elisa Borah, the director of the Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness, said the program is set up to have the most in-demand certificates that provide the skills employers are looking for. She said UTOM is forming partnerships with industry leaders in Central Texas for those transitioning out of the military.

“What we see is that at transition … the spouse now has a lot of new opportunities in front of them so that they could look into going back to school, to pursue a career they’ve always wanted,” Borah said.

Annually, 200,000 people leave the U.S. military, with 15% of them choosing to live in Texas, said Joseph Kopser, the special adviser and military affairs liaison for UT. Kopser said he served in the army for 20 years. Now, he works with nearly 20 organizations on campus that are associated with military veterans and, in some cases, their spouses. 

“We want (veterans and their spouses) to know that at every stage in their professional career going forward, doesn’t matter what age or stage in life they’re in — UTOM, and the University of Texas should be the place they start to be able to get access to skills, training and opportunities that they need,” Kopser said.