Owen School is popular transitional stop for veterans

Eric Johnson leading military panel
M. Eric Johnson, dean of the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, Bruce D. Henderson Chair in Strategy and holder of the Ralph Owen Chair, welcomes members of the military to a recruiting forum at Owen on Jan. 31, 2014. (Vanderbilt University)

Military veterans and current soldiers alike are a familiar sight in the halls of Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

“Usually we’ll have eight to 12 military students in a class of 50 to 60 EMBA students,” said Juli Bennett, executive director of executive degree programs at Owen. “With many veterans transitioning to civilian careers I expect to see the military presence in the classroom remain strong or increase in the foreseeable future.”

Vanderbilt participates in the federal Yellow Ribbon Program that gives veterans scholarships for higher education. Owen offers up to $10,000 per academic year in matching scholarship funds to students in the federal Yellow Ribbon program.

People with military backgrounds fit comfortably into Vanderbilt’s EMBA and MBA programs, Bennett said.

“They make great students because of the leadership skills they already have,” she said. “[rquote]The challenge is how to translate that knowledge into the language of the business world.”[/rquote]

Many students with military backgrounds go into operations, because the military has given them experience moving large volumes of different items in challenging circumstances. Others take the opportunity to branch out into other arenas such has human resources or marketing.

At a recent forum for veterans considering enrollment at Owen, Chris Baxley, who earned an MBA from Owen in 2007, talked about his journey. After more than seven years as a field artillery officer, he enrolled in Owen’s full time weekday MBA program with dual concentrations on finance and health care. He was hired by J.P. Morgan and Cain Brothers as a health care investment banker before becoming a senior leader at Nashville-based CPM Healthgrades.

Baxley and two other Owen alumni said the MBA and Executive MBA programs at Owen offered clear advantages, including:

  • Increased and refined skill sets, leading to more opportunities
  • A competitive, collaborative, healthy learning environment
  • A degree brand that garners respect worldwide
  • Participation in the yellow ribbon program

“In our current Executive MBA cohort every branch of the military is represented,” Bennett said. “We have military experiences as varied as F-16 pilots to JAG attorneys in the program.

“Many times students’ ambitions are changed by being in the program,” she said. “Their eyes are opened to business opportunities they didn’t even know existed.”

Graduates of Owen’s MBA and EMBA programs have found “tremendous success” in the job market, said Reed McNamara, marketing director of Owen’s Career Management Center.

“Knowledgeable MBA recruiters recognize the proven leadership skills of veterans, and actively seek them out,” McNamara said. “[lquote]The combination of military experience and the Vanderbilt MBA from Owen is a big advantage in the hunt for good jobs.”[/lquote]