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Sandy Stosz '94: Armed with Kellogg skills, guarding the nation

By Amy Trang

Early in her career with the U.S. Coast Guard, Captain Sandy Stosz '94 was dispatched to the barren and frigid continent of Antarctica — a place few have ever seen.

"It was a rugged landscape," recalls Stosz, who in 1982 had just graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. "There was lots of wildlife — killer whales, seals, all kinds of birds — more than you would think. It was a bounty of wildlife."

Since that first posting, Stosz's career has included other memorable experiences. She has commanded a 140-foot ice cutter in the clear, crisp waters of the northern Great Lakes, and overseen the training of enthusiastic new Coast Guard recruits at a New Jersey boot camp.

When Stosz entered the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1978, she had a clear vision of her military career goals. She wanted to earn the rank of commander and command a major Coast Guard cutter. She achieved that goal in 2002, her 20th year of service.

Some might have considered retiring after that point, but Stosz says the joy and adventure she has found with the Coast Guard give her no reason to move on. "Every time I transferred, they kept giving me a better and better job," she says. "I have been in it for 27 years; I have no interest in leaving."

Having recently served as executive assistant to the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Stosz worked closely with that officer — the equivalent of a chief executive — to synchronize and facilitate other Coast Guard offices in accomplishing strategic objectives.  In her current assignment as director of Coast Guard Enterprise Strategy, Management and Doctrine Oversight, she draws daily on her Kellogg experience to facilitate organizational change and inform executive decision-making.

Stosz has received some 15 assignments during her military career; each has averaged about 18 months. Every assignment presents a new test, she says, which is one of the reasons why she attended the Coast Guard Academy. Stosz was a member of the third class of women admitted after the Coast Guard opened its doors to females in 1976.

After earning her Kellogg MBA in 1994, Stosz was assigned to various administrative positions within the Coast Guard, including a period in the chief of staff's Office of Programs, where she reviewed acquisitions. In a year-long post in 2006 as commander of the Coast Guard's Training Center Cape May (known as the Guard's "boot camp"), Stosz says she was proud to oversee the unit that trained the next generation of Coast Guard members.

Before starting a new assignment, Stosz researches her new duties and develops an action plan, much as any executive would. Often, she asks her colleagues in the new department for their opinions on how to make the unit better.

"You want to make your mark," Stosz says. "When I got aboard a command, I narrowed my focus and looked at three things I wanted to accomplish to leave the unit a better place."

Stosz says the Kellogg School helped her sharpen her management and leadership skills and advanced her military career. The Coast Guard, meanwhile, has challenged her to harness those abilities while learning new ones.

"If you don't want to move forward, you are never going to make it in the world," Stosz says. "You have to be a lifetime learner. It's a critical skill set to have in order to move within an organization. Government needs those business skills just as any company would."

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