In honor of Veterans Day, we profile Jesse Smith, Evening MBA, Captain in the US Army and Assistant Professor of Military Science, ROTC at the University of Chicago.
- By November 10, 2019
Past military service: Company Commander in Korea in the 46th Composite Truck Company and an Executive Officer in 1-89 Cavalry Squadron at Fort Drum, New York.
How did the timing work out between your work with ROTC and Booth’s part-time program?
I always wanted to do ROTC and the stars really lined up- I got very fortunate to be stationed in Chicago and to be at University of Chicago and have the opportunity to do my MBA. The one thing I wish I’d done was that when I was in Korea, I wish I had reached out to the Armed Forces Group or to Booth earlier.
How was the transition into Business school?
I’ve spent the last eight years in the military, in Afghanistan, Korea- it feels like I’ve been all over. I’ve had a lot of great experiences but I feel like there was a bit of distance between me and my peers that went right into the civilian workforce. Getting an MBA was an opportunity to polish myself a bit, get back into the swing of things and then make a career change. I didn’t have a business undergrad so it was kind of a nice surprise that instead of feeling like I was behind, I feel like the MBA was designed for people like me. LEAD (Booth’s leadership course for incoming students) was also really valuable. I’ve gotten a lot of military training on leadership and facilitation which goes on over months. The three day LEAD course that we had during orientation hit on a lot of topics and was presented in such a way that I got a lot of value out of it – I did not expect to get as much value as I did.
Tell us more about the Armed Forces Group and how they provide support to those interested in pursuing an MBA
I didn’t know that as part of the Armed Forces group we talk to prospective students, provide advice and do resume reviews. We’ve talked to a prospective student on deployment in Afghanistan and to others all over the country. It’s pretty easy and we’re pretty willing to work with anybody. If I had known that was available, I definitely would have reached out earlier.
I’m looking forward to the joint full and part-time Armed Forces group Veterans dinner that we do over Veterans Day weekend. ROTC provides the color guard and the head has historically been Eric Gleacher.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ll be transitioning out of the army next year. My goal is to transition into an operations role or into project management. I did a lot of project management in the army and last year worked on my project management certification. Then I took an operations course and absolutely loved it so am focusing on more operations classes and getting an introduction to data analytics.
What is your advice for those in active duty or veterans considering an MBA?
I want to tell my peers who have since gotten out of the military and have transitioned to the civilian world that I believe coming to Booth is setting me up on a better path than transitioning directly out of the military because I’m getting such a broad overview of everything and then I’m able to go in depth on so many topics I find interesting.
Work/life balance is difficult but Booth has a very strong community so you’re always able to bounce ideas off your classmates. There’s a lot of group work so if you’re not strong at one thing, there’s always someone who knows what to do. This is a great community you can rely on. It’s been a lot of work but it’s fun.
Reach out to the Armed Forces group. The University of Chicago has also set up veteran services and military-related communities. There is both a strong full-time and part-time Armed Forces Group and everyone in these groups was in a similar position to you. They’re all happy to answer questions and talk. It’s a big commitment, you’re usually committing your GI Bill and giving the program a lot of time so reach out and ask as many questions as you can and get an early start.