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Each year, Chicago Booth's Executive MBA Program brings together 240 experienced professionals from around the world. From finance to consulting to law, our global cohort comes from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds. Making up part of this diverse community are military veterans and active duty service students. Their profile is nontraditional — some of them have never worked in the private sector; many have never taken a business course. But their impact is immeasurable. They've dealt with high-stress situations and made critical decisions in impossible situations. They are leaders and innovators unafraid of hard work and rigor. We are excited to highlight some of these remarkable individuals and share why Chicago Booth is as good of a fit for them as they are for Chicago Booth.

Booth EMBA student Brittney Bennet

Brittney Bennet, Executive MBA - Chicago

Brittney Bennett, a third-generation Marine and the first in her family to become an officer, is an Attorney at DLA Piper LLP based in Chicago, IL. During her nine years of active duty service, Bennett represented Marines and Sailors accused of crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and faced high-stress situations daily. When she transitioned into the private sector, she recognized immediately that her firm’s corporate clients spoke a totally different language. With encouragement from a mentor, Bennett decided to apply to Chicago Booth in spite of her fears about qualifying for the program. Now, in her first few months as an Executive MBA student, Bennett encourages other service members not to sell themselves short. “Don’t underscore your military service or your background,” she says. “What veterans bring to the table is beyond comparable. Our ability to work in team settings and handle conditions of extreme stress may not be obvious to the everyday civilian, but shoot for the moon and go for the top school.”

 

Paul Beckley, Executive MBA - London

Paul Beckley is a Maritime Analyst at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. After graduating from the US Naval Academy, Beckley flew tactical aircrafts in multiple combat deployments, retiring as a Captain after 30 years of service. In his first civilian role, Beckley recognized gaps in his interpersonal skills and sought out Booth for its reputation, leadership courses, and strong focus on analytics. “It’s the most challenging academic program I’ve participated in,” he says. “Should you choose Booth, the time management skills and resilience you’ve learned in your military career will serve you well. And the Booth community is welcoming and vet friendly — you’ll immediately have support.”

 
Booth EMBA student Andy Chung in helicopter

Andy Chung, Executive MBA - Chicago

Andy Chung is a Project Cost Engineer at Shell in Houston, TX. Post-graduation from the US Military Academy at West Point, Chung was commissioned as an Army Aviation Officer, flying over 100 combat missions in the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. Although he considered applying to full-time MBA programs straight out of the military, he ultimately decided to focus on getting practical experience first. He returned to the idea in hopes that an MBA would help him transition from engineering roles to business development, strategy, and commercial positions. Reflecting on this decision, Chung encourages others to “do your research and find out which program is the best fit for you. Each has its strengths and even its own personality. My background as an aviator and engineer fit well with Booth’s quantitative and data-drive approach.” 

 

Michael Dames, Executive MBA - Chicago

Michael Dames is the founder of Lusk Reserves in Atlanta, GA. After graduating from West Point in 2004, Dames became an Army Officer, leading combat engineers on several deployments to Afghanistan. He transitioned into the private sector after nine years of active duty service and recognized right away that he needed to refine his analytical skills. “When I showed up to my first job after the army,” he explains, “I realized that the learning curve would take me a long time to get over if I just continued on in the corporation. An MBA would expose me to what I didn’t know. We [veterans] have tons of leadership experience, but I knew an MBA would help me build skills that I’d never had to call on before and gain confidence.”

EMBA student Caroline Johnson in military gear standing in front of American flag

Caroline Johnson, Executive MBA - Chicago

Caroline Johnson is a Professional Speaker and Author whose best-selling memoir, Jet Girl, was published in November 2019. Much of the book focuses on her active duty years, where she was one of the only 1.7% of women flying fighter jets in the Navy. Following her service, Caroline returned to the Naval Academy to earn her Master’s and subsequently stayed on to teach leadership and aviation recruitment. She then began exploring the private sector, where she quickly found that she lacked the business acumen and credentials to create impact at the level she was accustomed to. “As far as veteran transition has come in the past decade,” Johnson explains, “the majority of private sector organizations fail to see a veteran’s value because our past accomplishments do not check the corporate boxes that most hiring managers look for. An MBA from a top program like Booth proves your value to a future employer.” When researching schools, Johnson targeted top programs, but Booth stood out because of its community. Finishing up her first quarter, Johnson feels like a valued team member at Booth: “I couldn’t ask for a better, more supportive family that replicates the camaraderie that I miss from the military.” 

Kent Justice, Executive MBA - Hong Kong '19

Kent Justice is the Director of Plans, Policy and Integration for the Mutual Defense Assistance Organization (INDO-PACIFIC Command) at the US Embassy in Tokyo. A self-proclaimed “'accidental careerist' in the military,” Justice expected to complete only his initial commitment to the army after graduating from West Point. Yet the military continuously offered him rewarding opportunities at critical junctures, and he’s reinvented himself multiple times over his almost 20-year career. With retirement as a military officer approaching, Justice decided to deepen his understanding of the business environment by pursuing an MBA. “It is an excellent qualification to improve marketability and differentiation for a post-military career,” Justice explains, “while providing skills and insights that can be leveraged in remaining military assignments.

Emily Schmidt

Assistant Director, Admissions, Chicago

Emily cultivates relationships with prospective students, helping them navigate the admissions process, and assists in crafting communications.

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