On Veterans Day, we honor those who have served in the military and reflect upon their heroism. The Wharton MBA Program for Executives values the unique points of view veteran students bring to the classroom. We are committed to helping our veteran students accelerate their careers whether they are staying in the military, planning a future transition, or working in the private sector. Here’s what four veteran students had to say about their time in the program:
Terence Vance, WG’22
Currently: Senior Manager, Strategy & Transformation, Government and Public Sector, EY
Based in: McLean, Virginia
Wharton Campus: Philadelphia
Prior Education: BArch, University of Arizona, BA, Asian Studies, University of Maryland Global Campus, MA, National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School
Military Experience: I’m a retired Air Force Officer. I started my military career as a civil engineer for the U.S. Air Force in 1999, eventually advancing into roles with a strong focus on international relations, foreign affairs, and national security policy. I spent three years at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as an Attaché to China for the Department of Defense, and later worked on The Joint Staff and at the National Security Council as the Director for African Affairs. I retired in 2020 and transitioned into the private sector before enrolling in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives.
Why Wharton? Through the course of being deeply involved with international affairs, it became increasingly clear that the global macroeconomic structure was changing in ways that impacted our national security. Although I had obtained expertise in certain areas, I felt I was missing pieces of the bigger picture. I wanted a new suite of skills to help me better understand the dynamics of our relationship with China and the geopolitical climate overall. While I was still on active duty, I spoke at a Wharton Aerospace event where I had the opportunity to network with Wharton alumni. They encouraged me to apply to the Wharton MBA Program for Executives and assured me Wharton was where I needed to be.
Value of Wharton for Military Students: Veterans bring a degree of diversity to the program that is probably not fully understood. I knew right away that I would be a minority as a veteran in the program, and I saw it as an opportunity for growth. Learning to work with professionals who are on the upswing of their careers was useful and helped me reframe my mindset as I entered the private sector.
Impactful Experience in the Program: Many classmates were genuinely interested in understanding my background and my goals for getting this degree. Veterans can sometimes be a quiet group, so I appreciated that my classmates took time to ask thoughtful questions about my military experience and share their thoughts about potential pathways for me. At the same time, they showed a deep level of respect for how difficult it can be to transition out of the military and switch industries.
Advice for Prospective Students: It’s important to emphasize that veterans are not a homogenous group. Our individual military service has had a deep impact not just on ourselves, but our families, our worldview, and our professional and academic journeys. Wharton has a strong support system for veteran students, and they understand that every student is coming into the program with a unique set of skills and experiences that will enrich the academic environment.
Lydia Miller, WG’24
Currently: Head of Business Strategy and Development, Miller Brothers, Inc.
Based in: Washington, D.C.
Wharton Campus: Philadelphia
Prior Education: BA, Science, Technology & Society and Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Military Experience: I was interested in defense and national security at an early age, and living outside of the Washington, D.C. area on September 11, 2001 deepened my motivation to contribute to national defense in the future. While an undergraduate at Penn, I participated in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC), which helped prepare me to serve as a Naval Officer upon graduation. The same day that I graduated from Penn, I commissioned as an Officer in the U.S. Navy. During my first four years, I served as a Surface Warfare Officer on guided-missile cruiser warships out of San Diego, California and then Yokosuka, Japan deploying throughout Asia and the Middle East. I later became an Intelligence Officer and spent the final three years of my Naval career working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff Directorate for Intelligence at the Pentagon.
Why Wharton?: In the military I have spent a lot of time developing leadership and management skills. I felt like the most efficient way to build my business acumen, especially mastering the quantitative skills required to successfully run a company, was through an MBA. The Executive MBA ended up being the best personal fit, and Wharton’s program goes above and beyond to ensure a tight-knit class. Wharton values the advantage that data analytics can provide firms and offers what seems like infinite resources across industries, all of which were extremely attractive to me. I love Penn, and picking Wharton was a no-brainer.
Value of Wharton for Military Students: The power of the alumni network is very real. On the train back home after a class weekend, I happened to meet some WEMBA alumni in the café car. They saw my Wharton backpack and struck up a conversation with me, and since then we have gotten together several times for dinner in D.C. The Wharton Veterans Club is also a great resource to strengthen relationships with current veteran students and alumni.
Impactful Experiences in the Program: My classmates are beyond incredible. It’s very inspiring to be around a group of ambitious yet collaborative and friendly people who are all trying to better themselves. Outside of class, we prioritize getting to know one another on a personal level. The Philly food scene is top-notch, and our class has a shared spreadsheet of Philly restaurant reservations that we continually add to and try out. We’ll pair dinner with a Phillies game or other events in town, and recently we had a big Diwali celebration. I’m also very much looking forward to the program’s international learning opportunities, such as Global Business Week and Global Modular Courses.
Advice to Prospective Students: If veterans are reading this and are interested in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives, don’t hesitate to contact the Wharton Veterans Club, or message us on LinkedIn. The best way to get a feel for the program is to speak with current and former students, and I’ve found that Wharton Vets are more than happy to hop on the phone to share their experience or answer any questions.
Garrison Haning, WG’22
Currently: Director, Media and Government Affairs, Magellan Midstream Partners
Based in: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Wharton Campus: San Francisco
Prior Education: BS, Political Science & Environmental Engineering, U.S. Military Academy at West Point
Military Experience: I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and was a sophomore in high school on September 11, 2001. Driving home from school that day and seeing the rising smoke from the Pentagon was a big influence on my desire to join the military and become a soldier. I graduated from West Point Military Academy in 2009, then served on active duty in the U.S. Army for five years, including one year overseas in Iraq. I transitioned to the Army Reserves in 2014, where I’m now a Major.
Why Wharton? In 2014 I began working in the energy sector as a Government and External Affairs Lead for a public oil and gas company. I’m passionate about making energy safer, cleaner, and more efficient. There is a real need for technological innovation in the energy industry, and I found myself wanting to make a bigger impact. At West Point I studied political science and environmental engineering, so I lacked the business background that many of my civilian colleagues had. I knew Wharton would help me fill in the gaps and give me the tools I needed to achieve my goals.
Value of Wharton for Military Students: I’m currently a Major in the U.S. Army Reserves Innovation Command, whose mission is to anticipate, identify, and solve technology and innovation gaps in the Army. Using what I learned at Wharton about innovation and product market fit, I partnered with Army Applications Laboratory to work on a solution for an ongoing problem within the Army. Today, there are no high-fidelity female combat care mannequins being used for medic training in the industry. It’s crucial that medics are trained using technology that realistically simulates what they may see on the battlefield; using only male mannequins is not a realistic scenario. I’m very excited to say that I am part of the innovative team developing the Army’s first high-fidelity female combat care mannequins for military medic training.
Impactful Experience in the Program: At Wharton, the residential component of the program allowed us to build extremely strong friendships. I live in Oklahoma and got on a plane every other weekend for class to focus exclusively on what I was learning. Creating that separation from your daily routine to prioritize your education is absolutely critical to getting the most out of the experience, in my opinion.
Advice for Prospective Students: You will come out of this program a better person than when you started. My classmates were curious about my experiences in the Army and valued my unique point of view. The Army Navy football game took place on a class weekend, and it was a fun opportunity to share part of my veteran culture with the class. At the same time, my classmates shared parts of their culture with me through different celebrations and customs. I’m grateful that I was able to spend two years learning so much both in and outside of the classroom.
Gia DeHart, WG’24
Currently: Marketing Engagement Lead, Rebellion Defense
Based in: Raleigh, NC
Wharton Campus: Philadelphia
Prior Education: BS, English, United States Naval Academy
Military Experience: In my first role in the Navy, I led a team of sailors while navigating the USS Anchorage warship across the Pacific Ocean. Looking back, that’s a lot of responsibility for a bunch of 22-year-olds! Throughout my military career, there were many situations where I had to think on my feet and learn very quickly. For example, I was the Public Affairs Officer at Naval Base Coronado when we had an aircraft run off the runway into the San Diego Bay. Thankfully, the pilot wasn’t injured. I was responsible for putting out press releases and answering media calls while concurrently leading a team from the base emergency operations center. This experience, and others like it, made me realize how much I love creating order from chaos and wearing multiple hats – these skills transfer seamlessly to my current role at a hypergrowth defense tech start-up.
Why Wharton?: Throughout my eight years in the Navy, I became well-versed in project management and leadership, but I didn’t learn as much about traditional business skills like finance or accounting. In fact, the first time I read a financial statement was in Professor Peggy Lane’s accounting class – talk about a steep learning curve! I saw the Wharton MBA as the perfect opportunity to gain the business acumen I felt I needed while continuing to advance my post-military career. My current company, Rebellion Defense, encouraged me to pursue the degree and has been incredibly supportive of my studies. I was born and raised in South Philly, so Wharton was naturally my top choice.
Value of Wharton for Military Students: The best part about serving in the military is the people you serve with, and I’ve found this same sense of comradery with my fellow Wharton vets. From day one, we became a very close-knit group – veteran lunches, self-deprecating jokes, and even commandeering the Amtrak dining car on the commute back to DC. Regardless of which uniform we wore, we all share a commitment to serving others outside of uniform. We decided to become involved with the Wharton Veterans Club and encourage military-affiliated applicants to reach out and get connected with us to learn about the Executive MBA program. The application process can be daunting and imposter syndrome is real – every veteran in our cohort is more than willing to answer questions and provide guidance to anyone who asks.
Impactful Experience in the Program: I’m in my second term and have already learned so much from my classmates. Taking a class on ethics or strategy and having the content reinforced by my classmates’ real-world experiences – especially my learning team – creates such a rich learning environment. Also, the Wharton professors are simply top-notch. In particular, Professor Kent Smetters’ sense of humor actually made microeconomics fun for me! Sitting through a three-hour class when you’ve been traveling the night before can be tiring, but their expertise and teaching methods make it worth it. I’m able to apply what I am learning directly to my job, which is something you just can’t do in a full-time program.
Advice for Prospective Students: I encourage any veteran who is considering the Wharton MBA Program for Executives to reach out to The Wharton Veterans Club. We are happy to connect with you, answer your questions, and give you practical advice about the next step in your career. Don’t hesitate to connect with me on LinkedIn!
— Kendra King
Posted: November 1, 2022