Karen Lange, Russ Becker and Greg Fredlund.
Vice President for Student Affairs Karen Lange, EdD, moderated the First Friday discussion with APi Group CEO and President Russ Becker and Northland President Greg Fredlund ’06. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

First Friday: A Commitment to Veterans

As the University of St. Thomas is on a mission to become the most veteran-friendly campus in the Upper Midwest, it’s fitting that the topic of recruiting, retaining and advancing veterans was the focus of a First Friday Speaker Series conversation.

In his introduction to the March 3 panel discussion, St. Thomas President Rob Vischer highlighted the university’s commitment to student veterans, from its first cadet program in 1903, to the Paul and Sarah Karon Veterans Resource Center, to its designation as a Military Friendly School several years in a row.

“In the area of support for student veterans, we are honored to be of service to those who have served our country, and that will be at the heart of our vocation for many years to come,” Vischer said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Karen Lange, EdD, moderated the discussion with APi Group CEO and President Russ Becker and Northland President Greg Fredlund ’06. APi Group is one of the largest providers of specialty services in North America and the largest provider of life safety services in the world. Northland, a wholly owned subsidiary of APi Group, is an infrastructure services provider operating in Minnesota and across the Midwest.

APi Group CEO and President Russ Becker. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

APi Group’s commitment to veterans originated during a conversation that Becker had with his mentor, former APi Group chairman and owner Lee Anderson, during the Great Recession. Veteran unemployment rates were at all-time highs.

“As a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a military veteran himself, Lee struggled with that and couldn’t understand why people weren’t hiring veterans – and why APi Group wasn’t hiring veterans,” Becker said.

Becker then spoke to the leaders at each of the APi Group businesses, requesting that they hire at least one veteran. The businesses soon discovered the benefits of bringing on veterans as employees.

Fredlund is one of the veterans APi Group hired. He served in the U.S. Army from 2006-11 and was deployed twice during the Iraq War. Upon leaving the military, Fredlund was selected into APi Group’s Leadership Development Program, which the company considers a key component of its veteran hiring initiative. The program provides participants with a yearlong business training experience at several different APi Group companies across the nation.

Northland President Greg Fredlund ’06. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

Fredlund also made the case for hiring veterans.

“You’re getting a mission-focused person who is driven, strong-willed and values selflessness,” he said. “From a leadership standpoint, veterans come with experience, have been stress-tested and been through some challenges.”

He also addressed some tips for veterans transitioning to civilian life: Have an advocate or mentor, join an organization that ‘gets you’ and determine your higher calling.

“The military is so all-encompassing that it becomes you; it’s your personality. When you get out, it’s really important that, in addition to your family, friends and faith, ask yourself what your work life will do for you,” Fredlund said. “For me, it’s about people in the business, taking care of them and protecting their livelihoods by making good decisions for them.”

Reflecting on his university experience, he said that St. Thomas prepared him for his military and civilian careers by having high standards, a focus on faith and by providing volunteering opportunities.

Becker closed out the conversation by sharing resources for support, incentives and programs for military-friendly businesses:

Watch a video of the conversation below.