Military MBAs: Veterans Join Business School Ranks

Military MBAs: Veterans Join Business School Ranks

Before Mark Lomedico was an MBA student at NYU Stern School of Business in New York, he helped to fight insurgents behind enemy lines for the US military.

The veteran spent four years in a variety of posts including as platoon leader of a signals intelligence team in Afghanistan. But after meeting his wife-to-be, Lomedico wanted to take his life in a new direction. “I knew I didn’t want to spend my whole career in the army,” he says. So, after a stint at a research firm, he decided to enrol in business school to hone his management skillset.

Lomedico’s story highlights a growing trend in the US: The swelling ranks of veterans who have swapped the battlefield for the business classroom as military budgets have been cut and since the US began to withdraw from Afghanistan. The number of military service people taking the business school entry exam the GMAT has risen from 10,671 to 12,690 over the past five years, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC).

Business schools are going to great lengths to attract military personnel. According to GMAC 56% of full-time, two-year MBA programs are conducting special outreach to military candidates. For instance, Harvard Business School (HBS) recently scrapped application fees for US veterans. Chad Losee, managing director of admissions, suggests the business school values the significant leadership experience veterans can bring to the classroom.

“Leadership is at the core of what we teach and these students almost always have faced real-life situations where leadership and judgment have been of paramount importance,” he added.

HBS is far from the only school trying to attract service men and women. Last year, NYU Stern created the Fertitta Veterans summer program, which helps US veteran and active-duty students get an early start on their MBA coursework. NYU Stern also launched a scholarship fund to cut the annual tuition of up to 20 admitted military MBA students from US$67,000 to US$30,000 each year.

Conor Grennan, NYU Stern assistant dean of MBA students, says that veterans bring a unique problem-solving ability to MBA programs, which rely on diversity to enrich the learning experience of their students. “Most of the vets at NYU Stern receive some financial support, which reflects the value they bring to the school and the service they have given the country.”

The US government provides further financial support through the GI Bill, which offers educational assistance to service members, veterans and their dependents, up to US$22,800 each year. The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than US$20 billion has been provided to around 800,000 veterans and their family members since 2009.

Many veterans see business school as a good way to transition from military to civilian life. NYU Stern’s Lomedico says: “When I left the army, I began to question my identity; being a solider was who I was and it was how I defined myself. Suddenly, I wasn’t. What was my purpose in the world? Did I make the right decision to leave?”

The business school’s veterans club helped him settle into the MBA: Its members provided mentorship and career networking opportunities. “There is a great culture of collaboration in the Stern community,” Lomedico says.

Upon graduation from an MBA, there is a diverse range of business management career paths available to veterans. Allison Jamison, director of admissions at Duke Fuqua, says: “There are unlimited job opportunities. We have veteran students go into banking, strategic consulting and the non-profit sectors. Their leadership skills translate and transcend industries.”

Since enrolling in the NYU Stern MBA, Lomedico has landed a summer associate job at the financial services company MasterCard. He says that many of the skills he accrued during his military career are transferable to a business environment.

“The military teaches you how to lead diverse groups of people, how to manage adversity and cope with ambiguity — active service can be intense and stressful. These traits can be a differentiating factor for veterans in the recruitment process.”

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

See related categories:

Log in from the top right-hand corner or click here to register to post comments