For Country and Career: Service Members Share Their MBA Experiences

It’s hard to top the combination of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and military experience. An individual with both has a competitive advantage, not only in the strength of their resume but also in the depth of their leadership skills. The College of Charleston School of Business is proud to support members of the armed forces to achieve their career goals.

We sat down with Alfred Phillips ’19, an Army veteran and MBA candidate focusing in finance, as well as Peter Burns ’15, an MBA graduate and active-duty member of the Air Force, to hear more about their journeys through the MBA and military service.

Phillips (pictured left), a current student, brings a unique sense of wisdom to his MBA class. After earning his undergraduate degree in biopsychology from Wagner College, he joined the U.S. Army as an automated logistical specialist. While serving, he completed rigorous training at Officer Candidate School and attained the rank of second lieutenant.

Phillips’ decision to pursue an MBA at the College of Charleston School of Business was motivated by the School’s acclaimed mentorship program in which students are matched with a top-level executive in their desired industry. To help him learn about the world of banking, Phillips was paired with mentor Michael Barnes, a senior business advisor at the BB&T Leadership Institute. The two meet biweekly to discuss everything from career advice to family life. “He’s a really funny guy and very honest,” Phillips says. “When you have someone helping you through the process and providing guidance, it’s a lot easier.”

The MBA program has helped Phillips expand the skill set he built in the Army. Since starting graduate school, he has learned a lot about networking, public speaking and teamwork. He especially likes the knowledge that comes from bringing together students with diverse backgrounds in the classroom. “People’s opinions are valued, which is refreshing coming from the military,” he says. “When you’re just taking orders, you don’t do your work wholeheartedly. But when everyone has input, they’re more likely to work harder.”

Burns (pictured right), on the other hand, joined the military after earning his MBA. He capitalized on the lessons he learned in the College of Charleston School of Business to succeed as a first lieutenant in the Air Force. When he began his graduate studies, he was just 22 years old, but knew he wanted to build a practical skill set to complement his liberal arts background. “Having no prior education in business, I was in search of a liberal arts-friendly program that would get me up to speed,” says Burns.

The lessons Burns learned in organizational management and leadership helped him from day one in the military. He also benefited from completing an internship with the U.S. Department of State, which rounded out his resume with a valuable mix of private and government experience.

Burns recalls discussing his goal of becoming an Air Force pilot with his mentor, who pushed him to follow his dream. Now he is the pilot of a V-22 Osprey, an aircraft that blends the vertical flight capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of an airplane. “My biggest accomplishment was earning my ‘wings,’ which consisted of 1.5 years of flight training in three different aircraft,” Burns says. “My MBA mentor was certainly instrumental in making it happen.”

The College of Charleston welcomes military members and veterans to explore our one-year, full-time MBA program. As an affordable program that is nationally renowned for placing graduates in great jobs, the CofC MBA is an ideal fit for many service members. To learn more or schedule a visit, visit mbacharleston.com.

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