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To commemorate Veterans Day this year, we will be amplifying the diverse voices and experiences of the Veterans within our community. 

By Brendan McCreary (2Y, 2023)

I never pictured myself going to graduate school. But when I heard about a special program the U.S. Navy offered, I was intrigued. The program offered the chance to become a full-time student while receiving a fully-funded Master’s in Business Administration. In exchange, an additional three-year, active-duty commitment was required upon graduation. An MBA offered me the chance to step outside the military and grow personally and professionally with an intelligent and diverse group of people. The business aspect was especially relevant considering my specialty in the military is logistics and supply chain management. Since throughout my life I have sought challenges, I decided this was a good one to take on. I applied and was accepted for the Navy’s program.

Learning from my Kellogg peers

The idea behind the military program is to develop officers that have been exposed to new ideas outside of the military. The program objective is to develop these officers into leaders, so that upon return they can make the Navy a more efficient and effective organization. I knew that if I was really going to make the most out of my MBA opportunity, I wanted an experience that was focused on collaboration and teamwork. I wanted to be exposed to my classmates’ perspectives, experiences, and insights as much as possible. I knew that most of my learning would take place outside the classroom, at a dinner party, or going for a run together. These desires made Kellogg the perfect school for me.

My intuition that I would learn so much from my classmates has, thus far, been correct. Class case discussions are often illuminated with insights from someone that worked at that company, or even on the project being discussed. During weekly dinners, my military “sea stories” are often the least interesting at the table. Instead, I learn about a classmate’s experience living in a refugee camp for three years, or another classmate’s experience starting a successful startup. The quality of people at Kellogg has blown me away. The most exciting thing about my remaining time at Kellogg is that I still have 18 months to get to know my classmates better.

Looking ahead at my career

Since I am returning to active-duty military service after graduation, it makes my recruiting and internship process unique. I can use this experience as an explorative one, pursuing interests and passions or exploring areas that may be attractive after my commitment to the Navy is over. It is essentially a free ‘trial run’ to interact with employers and companies and see how my skills in the Navy would be transferable to the private sector. Since my employment is not impacted by my summer internship, much of the pressures my classmates are experiencing are not quite as bad for me. This affords me the opportunity to be a better teammate — whether it is by taking up a bigger share of the group projects or taking the lead for club activities, I know I have more bandwidth than some of my classmates. This is a unique way I can contribute to the Kellogg community, and it has made my experience even more rewarding.

While school has been a nice break from the operational tempo of the military, the Kellogg experience is chaotically busy. But I know in the chaos I am improving my business skills, developing a diverse personal and professional network, evolving into new understandings and perspectives on leadership, and growing as a person. Ultimately, there is nothing I can think of that would prepare me to be a senior leader in the Navy better than the immersive experience I am having at Kellogg.