PODCAST: U.S. Marine Corps Veteran J.J. Stakem: Paying It Forward In Support Of Service-Disabled Veteran Scholarships

Story By: Elayseah Woodard-Hinton

Photos Provided By: J.J. Stakem


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U.S. Marine Corps Veteran JJ Stakem

Armed with an undergraduate degree in economics, coupled with a resume demonstrating his proven experience in the civilian sector, J.J. Stakem thought it would be easy to find work after serving almost 9 years as an officer in the Marine Corps.

The Veteran quickly learned that finding employment on the other side of his Military career wasn’t an easy task.

“Having had all those experiences, and having spent almost 9 years in the Marine Corps, I found for me personally, it was challenging to translate all of that different experience into something that was marketable in the commercial world and the private sector,” said Stakem.

The Marine Corps Veteran took charge of this obstacle and used it as an opportunity to attend graduate school; and so began his journey at George Mason University’s School Of Policy Government and International Affairs in the fall of 2011.

Since attending George Mason University, Stakem earned a Master of Science in Organization Development and Knowledge Management, he successfully found employment- and as of January 2016, Stakem has opened his own consulting business.

The George Mason graduate attributes his accelerated career path to the relationships he built during his graduate program.

“I think in the Military we get used to mentorship and sort of that bond – that personal connection,” said Stakem. And for me, being in a program where we were actually in class kind of helped to do that; and it helped to make other connections which were really valuable to this day.”

Since Stakem’s graduation from the School Of Policy Government and International Affairs, the program has gone through some major transformations.

The school has since been renamed the Schar School of Policy and Government due to a $10 million contribution made by Dwight C. Schar, a businessman and philanthropist in the Washington metropolitan area.

These changes come at a great time for Veterans in the Washington D.C. area interested in pursuing a degree in this field. With this recent contribution to the school, which is a central hub for national and regional research, plans are now in place to create new programming and extend its outreach.

In addition to the hefty contribution donated by Schar, the school has an ongoing relationship with a local U.S. Army Veteran and business owner whose philanthropic endeavors include helping service-disabled Veterans with their transition into the civilian sector by supporting their academic achievement and professional development through a scholarship program.

The scholarship includes $2500 per semester towards the completion of a graduate or qualifying undergraduate programs within the Schar School of Policy and Government. The Scholarship can be used by itself or in conjunction with the Post-9/11 GI Bill or other Veteran benefits.

In addition to the financial award, students will have an opportunity to gain real world experience through a paid internship, professional development opportunities, and a chance to build networks with business leaders.


U.S. Marine Corps Veteran J.J. Stakem, front left, at a planning lunch with leaders from George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. Stakem is an Alumni of the school’s graduate program and is working to spread the word about Service-Disabled Veteran Scholarships currently offered at the school.

With first hand knowledge of the difficulties that may come with transitioning out of the military, Stakem is very passionate about Veterans going to university. He’s volunteered his time to spread word about the great changes taking place at George Mason and to inform fellow Veterans about the scholarship opportunity.

“For me, Graduate school was a very important part of that transition and it was one of the reasons I’m volunteering to promote this scholarship,” said Stakem.

George Mason University is actively recruiting for Service-Disabled Veterans who are interested in this scholarship opportunity. You can find additional information on the schools website or at the following link: http://spgia.gmu.edu/veteranscholarship

Scholarship flyer

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