For veterans, active duty members of military, business education breeds success

Leadership, teamwork, discipline, and problem solving. These are some of the core traits the United States military instills in its members. They're values that edify the military's chief goal—to protect and serve the citizens of the United States—but they also correlate strongly to success in business.

"No matter what branch of service you are in, one of the pre-eminent things ingrained in you is the mission before self. That transitions well to business because you are comfortable putting the organization and mission first," says Scott Suozzi, a retired U.S. Naval Academy graduate, retired JAG Corps commander, and associate dean for strategic initiatives at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

In honor of Veterans Day, Suozzi, other veterans, and active military members within the Carey community reflected on how intertwining their military experience and business education has enhanced their careers.

Lt. Yong Choi is a student enrolled in Carey's online MBA program and an active duty U.S. Navy member stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. Choi, who is currently on shore duty, said he chose to pursue an MBA to help him become a better leader.

"Being an officer in the military is basically like being a manager in a company," Choi said. "Knowing that I was going to take on a more managerial role after shore duty, I thought, 'Why don't I learn the science behind management?' which I understand to be the definition of an MBA degree."

While only one semester into his program, Choi said his course work has already yielded dividends. He specifically cited a business communications course, which helped him compile and deliver his biweekly briefings to superiors. "It's been helping me tremendously in distilling information and becoming more efficient. It's been great," he said.

Like Choi, Chad Coursey, a student in Carey's Executive MBA program, has seen immediate results from his course work. Coursey is a Naval Academy graduate and active duty Navy flight officer currently working as a policy analyst assigned to the Office of National Drug Policy within the Executive Office of President Barack Obama. He is currently assigned to an eight-member group tasked with developing a plan to slow illegal trafficking of heroin across U.S. borders.

Coursey is the group's designated counter threat finance person, which means he's focusing on how money tied to the heroin trade moves through cartels. Coursey's approach, he says, is directly informed by his MBA education.

"One of the focuses of my approach is to take the lessons learned from business school—specifically how a business might function—and to translate it into how a cartel might function," Coursey said. "Then take that knowledge and develop a new strategy to disrupt the efficiencies in their operations and make it more expensive to operate, to increase the price of heroin in the U.S., to decrease the availability of heroin in the U.S., and to save people's lives."

He added that pursuit of an MBA influenced his appointment to the group: "One of the reasons they gave me this particular assignment was because I was in the MBA program."

As Choi and Coursey demonstrate, business education can have positive impacts for active duty military. But a business education at Carey has also been a career catalyst for retired veterans like Kevin White and Paul Ryll.

White is a retired Marine Corps veteran and Naval Academy graduate currently enrolled in Carey's flexible MBA program. He decided to join Carey to help launch his nonprofit called Global Vision 2020, a project inspired by his work running humanitarian assistance programs for the Department of Defense.

White said his military career taught him key skills he needed to run his nonprofit: operations, leadership, strategy. But he wanted an MBA to fill out his skill profile.

"I wanted to become a CEO that could do it all: fundraising, brand strategy, budgeting," he said. "All the classes I'm taking here are with the aim of making my nonprofit better."

So far, White is pleased with his results. He also added that networking within the Johns Hopkins community has helped move his nonprofit along: "The Hopkins connections are just fantastic," he said.

Ryll is a Marine Corps veteran currently enrolled in the Master of Science Real Estate and Infrastructure program. He spent six years on active duty and from 2003 to 2005 was deployed in Afghanistan. After being honorably discharged, Ryll became a certified appraiser and now owns his own business. He said the Marine Corps helped inject discipline into his life, and he also credits the Marine Corps with developing leadership skills he utilizes both in his career and in the classroom.

"I was very lucky in the Marines to learn from some of the best leaders that our military has to offer," he said. "That leadership has helped me the most with things like taking the lead on group projects or helping my classmates around me succeed."

Also among the ranks of Carey veterans is Frank Scarpinato, an adjunct professor at Carey, Vietnam veteran, and retired major in the Marine Corps. Scarpinato, who teaches fixed income and corporate finance courses, says there are many military values that lead to success in business. Chief among them, he says, are skills that lead to good character and a strong work ethic, but he added a less-often-heard refrain that all businesspeople can benefit from: self-understanding.

"Understanding the most about yourself and what you need to be successful by having a readiness for your daily life; being able to identify where you are supposed to be and to deliver—that is key to success," Scarpinato said.