In the matter of just a few months, the University of Colorado Denver’s Boots to Suits program already has garnered national attention as a model for more partnerships among higher education, business and community leaders, and military veterans.
About two dozen members of the CU Advocates program, a community outreach effort based in the Office of the President, gathered for a Sept. 28 session at the CU Denver Business School to learn about Boots to Suits.
Developed in conjunction with the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and launched earlier this year, CU Denver Boots to Suits helps veterans transition through a series of roles: from service members to students to business professionals and community leaders.
Leanna Clark, CU Denver vice chancellor of marketing and community engagement, told CU Advocates that the program matched 40 veteran students with business mentors last spring. This semester, the goal is for 100 such matches – and to pair 100 veteran students with jobs.
“The mentor piece has become the centerpiece of what we’re doing,” Clark said. For a semester of the senior year, a student veteran is matched with a Denver business executive. The business leader offers insight and advice to the student; the executive’s organization has the option of buying a suit for the student as he or she begins job interviews.
The program also works with businesses willing to offer internships and/or eventual jobs for student veterans; contributions to a business attire fund are solicited as well, with PCL Construction Leaders on board by providing a seed grant for the Suit Up Our Veterans Fund. Mock interviews and business panels are other offerings of Boots to Suits.
The program’s unusual, multipronged approach to helping student veterans gained attention from PBS, which featured it in this NewsHour piece over Memorial Day weekend. Clark said she considers the program unique in the country, and that the university has fielded inquiries from other higher education institutions about how the initiative works.
Cameron Cook, veteran student services manager at CU Denver, said there’s a strong likelihood that Boots to Suits could be established at other CU campuses, but that he wants to see it further established at CU Denver before expanding elsewhere.
For more information, including how to become a mentor or donate, visit the Boots to Suits website or call the CU Denver Office of Veteran Support Services at 303-556-2745.