Thursday, April 26, 2018

Three Veterans' Perspectives on the Georgia MBA Experience

Below is summary of our three Active Duty Military Officers within the program, each has their own 
(L-R) Brandon A. Shah, Phillip Edmondson,
and Nicholas Cherry,
MBA Class of 2018
motivations for selecting an MBA, specifically at Terry, but cumulatively their choices have been influenced by slightly different motivators than the rest of their cohort. You’ll hear words that resonate with the military, retirement positioning, and family. Albeit other students have just as many special considerations, these members bring a much different perspective to selecting and experiencing Terry.

Brandon A. Shah

I debated incessantly about the right school, the right graduate degree, and right location, both internally and with family. The struggle was more than just finding and being accepted into a competitive school, it was about a strategic reflection on what would benefit my family and I during our remaining years in service and what I might find myself doing in a future civilian career once I arrived at the “golden twenty.”

Stationed in Savannah (Hunter AAF/Fort Stewart), Georgia, I researched what schools in the south provided the best opportunities and culture, while simultaneously planting long term roots in the low country. I listed out a few requirements, 1) I needed a clear professional degree that would help hone my skills as an operational field grade officer, 2) provide the ultimate freedom to explore career paths post military, 3) a recognizable school with a large alumni chapter that could be leveraged post retirement and 4) had to have a strong identity, be in the SEC, and love football. GO DAWGS!

The University of Georgia, the only school whose website clearly reflected its professional culture and veteran friendly attitude, was an apparent choice. Not to mention the less than three-hour drive to/from Savannah.

There is certain level of ascendency attending a Top 40 MBA program, whether you’re a veteran or not. Moreover, there is also a lot of power and assurance in knowing that the UGA is conveniently located in an area that offers easy interface with some of the nation’s top fortune 500 companies in Atlanta.

During my tenure as an MBA, the discussions, open dialogue, and lessons learned from the faculty, guest speakers, and staff have been remarkable. The small class sizes have also eased the culture shock of the nearly 100% “Type-A” coworker environment into a more passive academic setting. The concentrated atmosphere keeps communications with faculty and students personal and is something that I find extremely familiar with military ethos – it helps facilitate teamwork and idea-sharing and even allows some of the few positive leadership attributes I’ve learned over the years to shine. Additionally, the intimate structure lends itself to professors and staff who not only know your name, but assist with mentoring, reach out for additional opportunities for experiential learning, and as a student, value your voice and feedback for change.

If you’re considering an MBA, not quite confident because your background is completely opposite of business, consider the various concentrations, and know that an MBA allows the opportunity to explore and leverage the many experiences the military has afforded you in operations and management. You may even find yourself correlating strategy with that of marketing or finance.

Phillip Edmondson

The journey for the Edmondson family to UGA continues to reward us daily. Fall days at my wife’s alma mater culminate with a call to the Dawgs. Our children ring the Chapel bell after each report card. Mild winters allow for continued play at a time when our goal is to maximize family time. We couldn’t pick a better college or college town to be at.

The decision in favor of Terry was, for us, easy. We spent three years at Fort Lewis, Washington. Two of those years, I was in command of at Troop and a Company. It was the most demanding and rewarding assignment we’ve experienced yet. We decided family time was our main concern and wanted to choose a graduate program that would challenge me mentally, but also provide the time and proximity to family. UGA is my wife’s alma mater, our extended family resides in Dalton, Georgia and the program allowed the time and opportunity to grow our family closer together before our next active military assignment. As such, we decided on Terry and have never looked back.

The academics were exactly what I thought they would be. I’ve stretched myself mentally, mainly focusing on operations and supply chain management. Through study within the program I’ve come to conclusions that I hope to apply in the operational force to improve our organizational management. And we’ve also brought our children to a wonderful elementary school, do homework with them and share in their successes at school and at home. I’ve brought my youngest daughter to class with me. We attended the Dawg Walks during fall. We’ve supported our daughter’s favorite gymnastics team, the Gym Dawgs.

On long weekends we travel to see family, or south to Disney World. During the summer, we hiked the falls of Northeast Georgia and got out and about to enjoy a lazier downtown Athens scene. The program at Terry offered us exactly what we needed to rejuvenate during a different type of assignment and we’ve taken as full advantage of the opportunities as we can.

I would recommend Terry to any active service member with the opportunity for advanced civil schooling. You will find no better faculty, ready and willing to assist in your development as a student. You will also find no better community and college town to provide respite and quality family time to enjoy a fuller growth and development. We love Terry and UGA and would make the decision to come again without hesitation.

Nicholas Cherry

As an Active Duty Officer, I came to the MBA program with a different set of criteria than most of my cohort. Their end goal was to transition their careers to the next phase, in which they become a more valuable commodity to businesses and get that better, higher paying job. Since I had a job for at least the next 8 years, that wasn’t a consideration.

I was doing this more for the academic pursuits and to glean knowledge from my classes that I can apply to my Army Career. As an Acquisition Officer I work with industry on a daily basis to provide supplies and services to the Army. The MBA program has given me a better understanding on the structure, motivations, goals, operations and functionality of businesses, which can be varied across industry, but is also different from how the Army and government operate. I have had outstanding operations and management courses at the UGA MBA program. 

I’ve been able to expand my network outside the Army and defense industry through other MBA students and Alumni.

Another draw to this program is the setting: Athens. I went here as an undergrad, and knew how great this town was. The social scene with food, music, and bars can’t be matched by other college towns. This is also a great town to raise a family. My kids are in a great school with lots of friends.  We live in a fun neighborhood with block parties and other fun events.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Meeting the Oracle of Omaha

Daniel Stykitus, MBA '19

A throwback Friday to the Georgia MBA trip to Omaha to meet Warren Buffett. First-year MBA student Daniel Stykitus recaps the student experience in Omaha, and how Buffett was just as interested in dispensing life advice as he is sharing insight on value investing: "The Q&A session closed with perhaps his two most important pieces of advice. First, be mindful of the company you keep. Warren told the audience to hang out with people who are better than you and marry someone who is better than you. Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, he said 'You shape your houses and they shape you.'

Finally, he told us to never give up on our dreams. 'Work,' he said, 'but don’t settle.' As a boy he found a book on investing on his father’s desk and discovered his passion in life early. Some of us don’t discover our passion in life until we’re in our early twenties. Some of us don’t discover our passion until much later in life. Either way, I left the event richer than before, eager to apply the sage wisdom from the Oracle of Omaha to my own life.

Daniel has a background in software development but joined the MBA program to pivot into finance. Read the full account of the trip on Daniel's blog.