By, Madalyn Johnson & Mack Olmsted, Web Editor & Staff Writer
Director of Veteran Services, Tiana Sloan, received the Ireland-U.S Transatlantic Ambassador Award at the New York-New Belfast Summit on October 1. As Manhattan College’s first Director of Veteran Services, Sloan was honored for her dedication to running the program which guides over 100 student veterans through their transition from working in the military, to becoming a college student, to earning a job.
Prior to being director, Sloan has picked up over 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, working for organizations such as the American Lung Association, Continuum Health Partners, and the Osborne Association. Throughout her college experience at NYU, Sloan struggled figuring out what she wanted to pursue so she dropped out and started working at a drug rehab center for women in Yonkers. From there, it was clear she wanted to make helping others her life’s work.
“One of the biggest things that I did there was that the organization needed to redo their policies and procedures to keep their state license intact,” Sloan said about her time at the center.
“So I raised my hand and said I would do it and I rewrote the programs, policies and procedures to get their New York state license and that kind of became the entry point for ‘I like doing nonprofit management, I like running programs and developing programs’”.
After settling on what she wanted to do, Sloan went to Baruch College and got a degree in Bachelors of Science and Public Affairs with a concentration in nonprofit and public management. The following years Sloan continued to work for nonprofits and it wasn’t until she met her husband at the American Lung Association, that Sloan developed a passion for helping veterans.
“Starting to date my husband, I started to become more aware of veteran issues and more interested in veteran issues, even when we got married, rather than doing favors we made a donation to the USO to send care packages to soldiers,” Sloan said.
“I am from a family where my grandfathers were all veterans and served but it wasn’t but it wasn’t something that we talked about a lot in my family and I just kind of was always peripherally aware of, but still never fully understood. Fast forward and I ended up leading the American Lung Association after eight years, then working for a hospital system in New York and I’m still not working with veterans, but just kind of peripherally aware and interested in veterans, and then I came to Manhattan College.”
Sloan received the award from The Irish Echo, an Irish American Weekly Newspaper, at a conference the paper annually holds called the New York New Belfast conference. This year’s theme at the conference was rebuilding, as a result of COVID, specifically rebuilding cities. Sloan was one out of six honorees that night of Irish descent, but Sloan shared there was more that organizers of the event looked for when choosing an honoree.
“They wanted somebody in higher education that was doing a lot of work to help rebuild after COVID. During COVID It was such a strange time and the cornerstone of what we do for veterans here is building community, and that’s really easy when we have a Veteran Center here on campus. But unfortunately during COVID When we went remote that was really hard to do.”
Despite COVID making it difficult for Sloan to build that sense of community for veterans, she became creative when coming up with ways to still connect with veterans regardless of not being in-person.
“I did a lot of work during COVID to keep that sense of community going, so we held online events every week sometimes, we were doing meditation sessions, an open table gathering where we normally go to An Beal, but hey we’re going to hang out on Zoom for a few hours. I would stay live on camera as much as I could during the day and you just clicked on a button and you got to see me at home doing work and my kids in the background, but we really did a lot of work to kind of maintain that community.”
When Sloan met Steven Kaplan, Ph.D, he offered a religious studies course with sections specifically for student veterans. Sloan heard about the work Kaplan put into student veterans and was eager to get involved. She became director of corporate foundation relations and later worked with Kaplan to open the Veterans Center in Thomas Hall.
“Tiana Sloan is the heart and soul of the Veterans Success Program,” Kaplan said.
“She runs the organization like a well oiled machine, making sure all the numerous events are run perfectly and the management of such a complicated program is executed without a blemish. But it is her heart that is the glue of success. She creates a community of student veterans that care for each other because she cares for each of them.”
Sloan has played a huge role in helping many student veterans gracefully transition into the college environment, like junior Christopher Noberto.
“She is dedicated to the job, and she’s always there for us whenever we need her. She’s driven to get what we need when we need it, even at the expense of our own workload,” Noberto said.
Another student veteran, sophomore James Washington, shared how appreciative he is of Sloan and all her hard work.
“I think Tiana deserves this award because of how extremely dedicated she is to her job and her dedication to her job. She has made it extremely easy for better basic transition into society. It’s shocking even for us students after my case in particular, but with Tiana on my side, I get all the resources I need and she does it for every single one of us.” James Washington said.
Even though Sloan was selectively chosen to receive an award by a well-known Irish-American publication, she explains she still mainly gets satisfaction from the outcome that comes from helping others, and that she owes her success to the student veterans at Manhattan College.
“I’ve never needed an award for this but it is really nice to be acknowledged. But I really think I need to give so much of the credit for what I do to the veterans. I put a lot into them, but they work incredibly hard and I think I do that because I really believe in them. They’re just an amazing population of people.”