After an honorable discharge from the Army in 1991, BriGette McCoy found the transition to civilian life difficult. Although the Veterans Administration provides services to former military members, systemic barriers prevent many women from accessing gender-based benefits such as disability compensation due to military sexual trauma, prosthetics designed specifically for the female anatomy, and maternity care.
“The transition is a lifelong process, especially for women who served, because so many resources still aren’t in place,” McCoy said. “The information and training are very male-centered.”
McCoy decided to do something about it. In 2008, she launched Women Veteran Social Justice Network, a nonprofit centered around digital literacy and leadership training as well as human rights and veteran benefits advocacy. McCoy serves as CEO and executive director. Her real-life experience as a data telecommunications systems operator in the Gulf War as well as her undergraduate psychology degree have contributed to the organization’s success. But over time, she realized she needed a formal business education.
“I basically bootstrapped everything,” she said. “I didn’t understand all the moving pieces, and I didn’t have a professional network.”
McCoy earned an M.S. in instructional design and technology from Georgia State University in May 2020 and is considering a Ph.D. in instructional technology from Georgia State as well. When she heard about Robinson’s new Graduate Certificate in Disruptive Innovation and Entrepreneurship, she jumped at the chance to enroll.
“I feel like the graduate certificate will not only prepare me for a doctoral program but also help me be a better leader for my nonprofit,” she said.
The Innovation Studio class has offered McCoy an opportunity to develop a product that complements her interests. In fact, course instructor Elizabeth Strickler requires all students to pursue projects that actually align with their passions. Not surprisingly, McCoy built the prototype for a platform that provides a virtual mentoring community for women. Through small peer groups, participants can learn concepts and practice those skills in a safe space. Topics include prioritizing self-care, navigating interpersonal toxicity, and confronting Imposter Syndrome.
“I create experiences for people to have conversations that get at the deeper root of hurdles to success. Because oftentimes success isn’t a matter of skill, but instead a matter of social or emotional obstacles,” McCoy said. “Healing happens in these types of spaces where people are allowed to share snippets of their narrative in support of the greater good.”