Dog Tag Launches Chicago-based Fellowship Program Serving Veterans, Military Spouses And Caregivers


Dog Tag Fellows sitting in a circle in a classroom, discussing

Dog Tag, a seven-year-old nonprofit that equips veterans with service-connected disabilities, military spouses and caregivers with the education and tools needed to find renewed purpose and community outside of the military, is expanding its fellowship program into Chicago through a collaboration with Loyola University Chicago's Executive and Professional Education Center beginning in January 2022.

Dog Tag selected Chicago as the second program city due to its strong ecosystem of veteran and military family resources; its reputable and vibrant educational, business, and civic community; and the collective commitment to support local veterans, military spouses, and caregivers as they transition into post-military life. Dog Tag's unique model addresses the economic, social, and wellness challenges members of the military community face, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dog Tag's nationally recognized "living business school," founded in Washington, DC in 2014, offers an innovative five-month fellowship program. The inaugural cohort of 10 fellows, selected from Chicagoland and beyond, will earn a Certificate of Business Acumen from Loyola University Chicago's Executive and Professional Education Center. Dog Tag's virtual program includes an entrepreneurial-focused curriculum, lectures from local business leaders, presentation skills training, and a focus on wellness, introspection, and relaying personal stories of obstacles and growth.

"Those we serve understand that what we offer is a transformational opportunity," said Meghan Ogilvie, Dog Tag CEO. "Our fellows commit to a rigorous program that builds valuable skills and relationships.  We also create an environment that honors each individual while challenging them to soul search, find their voice, and redefine what success looks like for them -- whether starting an entrepreneurial venture, securing a new job, or approaching future challenges and opportunities with greater confidence."

Participants in the Chicago cohort will bring their coursework to life by applying what they learn in Dog Tag's DC bakery/café and online business which delivers baked goods nationwide. In addition, Chicago fellows will connect with the Washington, DC, cohort as well as with Dog Tag's growing alumni network.

"We are thrilled to welcome the Dog Tag community to Loyola and Chicago and to provide tailored education programs," said Colleen F. Reaney, director of the Executive and Professional Education Center at Loyola University Chicago. "Working with the fellows is a natural extension of our mission and values which include service to others, commitment to excellence, and caring for the whole person."

Dog Tag's expansion is grounded in the vision of the organization's co-founders, Ms. Constance Milstein and the late Father Richard "Rick" Curry, SJ and the proven model of its DC flagship program with educational partner Georgetown University. In addition, Dog Tag's growth plan was made possible by a force of funders who challenged the organization to demonstrate the same attributes Dog Tag asks of its fellows: resilience, community building and forward thinking.

"Our innovative model resulted in an extraordinary domino effect for our organization—a coming together of funders with life-changing results," said Ogilvie. "The Boeing Corporation invested $1 million in 2018, which was critical in supporting the expansion of our program. Boeing's investment also created interest from another leading funder in the veteran space, the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, which became a funding lifeline for us during the worst of the pandemic."

Recognizing the program's potential, the Clark Foundation presented Dog Tag with a significant opportunity: if Dog Tag demonstrated its expansion viability, sustainability, and strong base of Chicago-area funders by raising $500,000 for the Chicago expansion, it would invest $1.8 million in Dog Tag. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) answered the call first with a substantial donation, leading to six additional foundations making contributions that exceeded the match challenge— Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Pritzker Military Foundation, Veterans United Foundation, Elizabeth Dole Foundation and Charles P. Ferro Foundation. This cumulative support and Dog Tag's proof of concept locked in the Clark Foundation's seven-figure commitment to the Chicago fellowship program.  Ogilvie adds, "We are so grateful to our funders and the city's businesses, organizations, and leading voices who have embraced what we do and have made Dog Tag in Chicago possible."   


Dog Tag equips post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities, military spouses and caregivers with the tools and education to find renewed purpose, forge a community, and build resilience beyond the military. The "living business school" was founded in Washington, DC by Constance Milstein and the late Father Richard "Rick" Curry, SJ with educational partner Georgetown University and is expanding to Chicago in January 2022 in collaboration with Loyola University Chicago's Quinlan School of Business. The five-month program, which combines equal parts classroom, bakery, community, and wellbeing, has served 167 graduates in 14 cohorts in Washington, DC.

Kathryn Glasshoff