New Social Learning Network Helps Veterans Succeed in College
(Editor’s Note: This month, instead of featuring a Hometown Hero, we’re using this column to feature an online social learning network designed by an OU alumnus to motivate, encourage and assist veterans in enhancing their future through higher education.)
As a contractor for several years in the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard and then an adviser to the California and Oklahoma departments of veteran affairs, Jonathon Lunardi found his calling serving members of the military and veterans, particularly veterans facing the often-tough transition period immediately following military service.
Realizing that for many soldiers and other enlisted personnel concluding their military service, continuing education is a major goal, Lunardi drew upon his experiences in those capacities and as a student leader in the Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma to develop an online network that would help these veterans select a school, guide them toward academic success and connect them to employers after graduating.
While working toward his management information degree (which he earned in 2001), Lunardi gained invaluable IT and leadership experience as the founder of the Sooner Information Network, OU’s first student portal and online election system, and president of the student-run company IB Collectin, which in six weeks brought in $35,000 in sales. The proceeds were donated to Make a Wish Foundation.
With Paul Day, Lunardi in 2015 launched an app called ServingVets to rate and review nonprofits serving veterans and their families. The nonprofit network recently was rebranded as ScholarVets.com to focus solely on military-connected college student support. Lunardi serves as CEO, Day as chief technology officer.
“The impetus for going in this direction,” he said, “was largely driven by universities reacting to a new law put in place on Nov. 11, 2015, enabling veterans to obtain in-state tuition costs for any state in which they choose to attend college.”
“ScholarVets is the first and only online network solely dedicated to serving veteran- and military-connected college students,” Lunardi explained, adding that the system has three major components:
- + a ratings and reviews application, which enables users to review their college experience by answering seven questions about their school’s friendliness toward veterans, affordability and available resources; the website then ranks the best colleges according to ratings and reviews provided by actual student veterans and military
- + a social learning network that enables veterans and members of the military to find each other based on their shared academic degree and goals; members can follow each other and post content to their school’s unique activity feed and discussion board
- + an employment solution that enables users to follow companies in which they are interested, apply to jobs, post their resumé, integrate their LinkedIn account and receive messages from employers such as Amazon.com.
“The mission of ScholarVets is to support veterans and members of the military in choosing a school that is a best fit for them, helps them become academically successful, and finally, aids them in obtaining meaningful employment quickly after graduating college,” Lunardi said.
ScholarVets is only one of Lunardi’s accomplishments. Since the age of 18, the Internet entrepreneur has launched 13 companies.
ScholarVets is free to veterans and the military. For more information, visit scholarvets.com or facebook.com/scholarvets