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Military Meets MBA

By Kait Kisel, student writer

Michigan State University’s rich history of supporting United States veterans dates back generations. Following World War II, the university created Quonset Village, a housing community on the west side of campus to accommodate the masses returning to the U.S. to pursue college degrees; today, MSU has an entire unit dedicated to supporting veterans and their families on campus. The Eli Broad College of Business Full-Time MBA (FTMBA) program captures the university’s commitment and appreciation for this special group of students.

“Ten percent of our first-year MBAs are military veterans,” said Wayne Hutchison, director of the MBA program’s academic services and a veteran himself. “In short, if you recruit a military veteran, you’re getting a difference-maker who can navigate multiple priorities and complete objectives by being measured, focused, and efficient,” he said.

mbas with flag
Veteran MBA students pose with the Afghanistan flag dedicated to the Broad College by Martin Barnes, who graduated in 2005.

As Hutchison explained, the FTMBA program aligns with skills and assets veterans bring to the table. “We have a highly structured, team-focused learning environment that empowers students to both lead and follow. Student veterans appreciate the structure and the choice that the program affords them, because that kind of environment is very inviting for someone who is leaving military service and looking for a challenging, diverse set of professional experiences in a new, post-military career,” he said.

Broad’s FTMBA program hones the skills vets obtain through service and teaches them to apply these skills in the business world. Sung Y. Hong (FTMBA ’18), a U.S. Army captain, credits the military for shaping creative problem-solving skills and fostering team work. “The military has been a leader in creativity and military logistics have paved the way in many areas of life. Military individuals follow rules, but are also very open minded, flexible, and get to share ideas and opinions with leaders.”

Beyond problem-solving, students say Broad’s FTMBA program instills a sense of leadership and pushes them to take initiative – traits military personnel come well-equipped with. Michael O’Neill (FTMBA ’19), who served more than five years in the Army, explains, “Vets have all been put in charge of large groups of people during high-stress situations, which sets us apart. While we certainly do have a rigid top-down rank structure, the majority of military members are also given a lot of freedom and latitude in how they accomplish their tasks. This means you have ownership of a problem right from the start, and it is completely on you.”

Broad faculty and staff recognize the impact an MBA can have on veterans’ futures, so they provide extra support as they reenter student/civilian life. “Generally speaking, none of us have had previous experience in the business world, so the ability to regularly interact with your professors and get that individualized attention or extra help really goes a long way towards building a solid foundation of business knowledge that we will need to succeed once we are through here,” O’Neill explained.

Outside of the classroom, Hutchison explained that veterans at Broad belong to a strong community. “We have a dedicated student veterans’ organization that is designed to both bring these individuals together and, through service opportunities and learning communities, serve the local community,” he said.

The impact this extra support has is a lasting one for alumni: Martin Barnes pursued his MBA at Broad after serving the U.S. Army for five years. After graduating, Barnes went on to work for National City Bank, PNC, and now leads U.S. Operations for the Kenan Group. To commemorate his experience as a Spartan, he dedicated the U.S. flag that flew over Afghanistan to the MBA office.


Eli Broad College of Business

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