As the founder of Boots to Books, Peter Cline ’23 — a former infantryman and infantry team leader in the U.S. Army — is committed to helping veterans attain education and employment opportunities as they transition out of the military.
“As I transitioned out of the military I noticed a disconnect between the skills myself and so many of my peers had developed and the transition process,” says Cline, who majored in political science at Chapman. “There were wildly capable individuals taking careers or educational opportunities they were not satisfied with, or struggling to find opportunities and resources that aligned with their goals. After working with one of my friends during my transition, we realized more people could use that very assistance.”
While the organization started slowly, today the organization employs a small team as well as a large group of volunteers, and has distributed over $140,000 in resources while assisting more than 6,500 individuals. They have worked with approximately 50 companies, including 10 Fortune 500 companies and three of the nation’s largest banks.
Chapman Goes Green for Veterans
“We plan to expand our scholarship classes in line with increased fundraising and continue to onboard new employers to cater to the diverse interests of our community while showing companies the value of hiring from it,” Cline says.
In addition to running Boots to Books, Cline works as an advisor to startups in the education technology and cybersecurity industries, and has worked as a strategy consultant helping companies ranging from startup to post-IPO on their most pressing challenges. He is now working in corporate development, assisting a leading software and digital media company in identifying, diligencing, and closing M&A deals.
We asked Cline about how his time at Chapman helped prepare him for his career.
How did Chapman prepare you for life and your career? Any skills or lessons that have stuck with you?
Chapman gave me access to some brilliant professors, and an excellent group of supportive people. Chapman is truly what you make of it, there is such an amazing range of courses and resources. Plus, the Bloomberg Terminals were definitely nice to have — few folks have working knowledge of them post-grad unless they have been in industry. One professor I had, Mark Johnson, seemed to emphasize logic and realism despite whatever hysteria may be occurring in the world, and I truly appreciated that.
Share about your involvements (clubs, study abroad, research, etc.) while attending Chapman and how it impacted your experience.
I was in several organizations including the pre-law society, honor societies, Greek life and the honors program while at Chapman. Each of the different organizations fueled my quest for knowledge in a different way, and gave me some great opportunities to continue learning past the classroom.
The honors program was one of the most impactful, as it was an interdisciplinary program welcoming those from all majors so it was a melting pot of people, all with different interests that made classes riveting. Plus, the professors were beyond amazing — the program even helped raise money for Boots to Books at one point!
Who was the most influential person for you at Chapman and why?
That would be hard to distill into one. I would say Dr. Andrew Manson, Dr. Carmichael Peters, Ashley Cosgrove, David Berkovitz and Dr. Mark Johnson were each fantastic in their own ways. Each of them were open minded and encouraged asking difficult questions, pushing students beyond the surface or commonly held perceptions. Professor Berkovitz and Dr. Peters both let me really go “down the rabbit hole” with my papers to focus on things that truly interested me.
Read more alumni stories:
Kaiy Smith-Biesman ’11: How Charcuterie Feeds a Passion for Empowerment
What advice/encouragement can you share with students or recent graduates who maybe want to start their own business?
Two things: start trying and don’t stop learning. The first point, start trying, is huge. There are countless people who want to start a business but … or would have done it but … each followed by a lackluster reason. You can find the time, you can find a way to do it without a large upfront capital commitment (in most cases), but if you can’t find the willpower to start, imagine how you will feel when you are exhausted and there are individuals counting on you to get things done. Plus, the sooner you start the sooner you can find out if it is a viable idea in the market. If it isn’t, great, you have gained experience you can carry to your next venture.
The second point, you can never read too much or learn too much. Become a lifelong student, so to speak. If you asked any of my roommates in college, I read like it was going out of style and I truly believe that has propelled my career more so than anything other than maybe pure effort (though the two are very much intertwined).
Where can people learn more about you and your organization?
I am more than happy to connect with any Chapman folks on LinkedIn or they can visit www.boots2books.com to learn more about the organization.
Read more about what Chapman University Alumni are up to on our Class Notes page — and submit your own life updates for a chance to be featured!