Military background + MBA = endless possibilities

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Juan Meave stationed in Iraq

Veterans of the armed forces are often faced with questions about the marketability of their military experience and how transferable it is to the private sector. Basically, how does being in uniform correspond to being white collar?

Beyond having to apply new skills, assume new responsibilities and work toward the achievement of new goals and objectives, you also have to adjust to a new culture — new colleagues, new supervisors and new notions of what it means to be a high performer. 

TCU has a long-standing commitment to helping veterans continue their education. Military Times consistently ranks the Neeley School of Business in the top 75 best graduate schools for veterans based, in part, on the school’s participation in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program. This benefit can in some cases pay for the entire cost of a degree. But Neeley’s commitment doesn’t stop at the financial. It’s our welcoming and supportive culture that helps veterans navigate their new career paths.

Juan Meave (Energy MBA ‘15) was an Army mechanic who worked at XTO before entering TCU’s Energy MBA program. He had his fair share of management experience but was looking for the next step.

“I would be given orders, and I figured out how to carry them out with my team,” he says. Juan’s tenure at TCU taught him how to build on that experience, further explore his character and temperament and to observe first-hand what makes for strong leadership in a business environment.

“The military and professional civilian worlds are completely different. An MBA can help you adjust and understand the differences between military and civilian management styles,” he says. “Thanks to my MBA experience, I got to meet influential people across my industry on a weekly basis. I attended classes taught by current and former CEOs, who brought in other C-Level guest speakers. I also created connections within my cohort, learning about their side of the business. I value the information and insights I received from these connections the most.”

Thanks to his MBA, Juan secured a position as a financial analyst with Lonestar Resources, a small-cap oil and gas operator in his hometown of Fort Worth.

Williams Brian

Upon returning from a tour in the Middle East, Brian Williams saw his son walk for the first time.

Brian Williams (Energy MBA ’15), a former Navy pilot, trainer and U.S. Naval Academy football standout, found his separation from active military duty to be a humbling experience. “I quickly realized my military career prepared me for many things, but running a business was not one of them,” he says. “None of my training taught me about balance sheets or the time value of money. I knew how to make difficult decisions when the mission was in jeopardy, but I didn’t know how to evaluate the effect of that decision on my profit and loss (P&L). I didn’t understand the difference between finance and accounting, the true role of supply chain nor how to incorporate business law into my decisions.”

Brian joined Chesapeake Energy as a field engineer in training, and his MBA proved instrumental in his moving from Chesapeake’s operations to its supply chain division.

Tannehill Helen  

Helen Tannehill checking bearing from the San Diego Harbor

Helen Tannehill is a current full-time MBA candidate who served as an officer in the Navy.  Neeley’s two-year MBA program appealed due to its blend of familiar and unfamiliar elements. “TCU’s classrooms reminded me of the setting of the Naval Academy: small in nature, with faculty who invite questions and curiosity,” she says.

Helen credits her experience in the Navy for allowing her quickly jump in and work as part of a team to present a united front throughout case competitions and projects.  Similar to the workings of a ship, “every sailor holds equal value,” she says.

Helen recommends that other veterans consider the TCU MBA program. “If a veteran, like me, was wondering how to sharpen their education, practice professionalism and stretch their personal growth through exposure to new topics and people, while expanding your network from graduating peers to CEOs, I would recommend investing in an MBA,” she says.

Helen has made the most of her own MBA experience, serving as a student club president, consulting with a defense contractor, earning her Six Sigma Green Belt certification and speaking to new students at orientation boot camps.

Foster Kilemon

Kilemon Foster served in the US Marine Corps for over 20 years.

Kilemon Foster (class of 2017) served more than 20 years in the Marine Corps and two deployments to Iraq before retiring from the military and going to work at Lockheed Martin while earning his undergraduate degree in business management. From there, he chose to pursue his MS in Supply Chain Management, recognizing the impact that global emerging markets have on the manufacturing and retail industries.

From the moment he applied, he felt his unique circumstances were taken into consideration and that respect was accorded to his deep and diverse range of combat- and noncombat-related expertise. Kilemon says he chose to attend Neeley due to its national ranking and strong alumni presence in the aerospace industry.

Kilemon is already putting his degree to use in his position at Lockheed. “I have been able to gain higher-level insight into the company’s organizational supply chain structure,” he says. “Combining the supply chain program’s capstone project with my access at Lockheed will allow me to apply my new academic knowledge firsthand within the company’s supply chain discipline.”

Learn more about what differentiates the graduate degrees offered by the TCU — and how the Horned Frog community (faculty, staff and alumni) give veteran students the tools they need to leverage their service experience — by visiting the Neeley School of Business website.

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