The Last Word: Marine Veteran Victor Acosta on SMU’s Catalyst Transition Program

“Veterans bring marketable skills to the table.”

Victor Acosta
Marine Veteran
Bilingual Relationship Banker 
BOK Financial
.…on how SMU’s Catalyst military transition program opens doors for veterans.

Here's "who said what" in Dallas Innovates Every Day.Acosta served as a Marine amphibious assault vehicle operator in posts from Somalia to Haiti to Jordan before coming home to the U.S.—and seeking his place in the civilian workforce.

“I gained a life experience that enabled me to see the world differently,” he said in a statement about his Marine service.

To put that into play in the business world, he entered the Catalyst program at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University. The eight-week military-to-civilian transition program is offered by SMU’s Continuing Education and Professional Development (CAPE). Participants learn how to transfer skills they developed in the military—from leadership to time management and more—to the working world by taking part in case studies with area businesses. While they do that, they earn graduate credits toward an MBA and a certificate in project management. Veterans are able to use their education benefits to fund the full cost of the program.

Acosta finished the program in June. In January, he’ll bring his earned credits with him to the online MBA program offered by SMU’s Cox School of Business.

Acosta graduated in 2020 with a BS in business management and human resources from California State University. At the time, he wrote on LinkedIn, “Being a 1st-generation college graduate and my parents raising 6 of us, I want to say thanks to my family for all the support through this journey.”

Now, with further support from the programs at SMU, he’s embracing his opportunities.

“Catalyst opened so many doors and opportunities for me,” he said. “It made me realize we are underselling ourselves as part of the military..”

Robert Hurst

U.S. Army veteran Robert Hurst directs veterans affairs for CAPE. “The key thing missing from most military transition programs is how to leverage the skills gained in the military in the classroom or on the job,” he said in the statement. “Catalyst helps veterans develop a personal brand, gain professional experience, and earn a certificate in project management, something they probably have been doing throughout their military careers.”

“Providing opportunities for veterans and their spouses is our way of saying thank you,” Hurst added.

Other SMU programs help military spouses, leverage Post 9/11 GI Bill

SMU offers other programs and services for veterans and their spouses.

SMU’s Continuing Education program is one of a handful approved by the VA Administration for spouses of active-duty service members, Hurst says. Spouses eligible for the $4,000 My Career Advancement Account Scholarship can apply it to three of the certificate programs at SMU that the VA calls “portable fields,” The paralegal studies, project management, and user experience design certificate programs are eligible for MyCAA scholarships.

As a participant in the Department of Defense Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (named after the 1973 Tony Orlando song), SMU takes part in the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Eligible veterans get benefits that cover almost 70% of tuition and fees for undergraduate and graduate students. (By the way, Tony Orlando is the co-grand marshal of Friday’s Veterans Day Parade in downtown Dallas.)

SMU also hosts student groups that are tailored to veterans, including SMU MilVets and Veterans in Business.

For more of who said what about all things North Texas, check out Every Last Word.

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