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Military Veterans Find Community and Connection in MBA for Executives Program

The executive MBA program is welcoming increasing numbers of veterans in mid-career, who embrace the school’s focus on mission and mutual support.

The Yale School of Management is increasingly popular with military veterans looking to bring their leadership skills to the business world. The MBA for Executives (EMBA) program, designed for experienced, working professionals, has emerged as an increasingly attractive option for those who are mid-career. The EMBA Class of 2021 includes 12 veterans—16% of the class—three of whom are women; there are 11 veterans in the Class of 2020.

“Military veterans are a wonderful fit for an MBA program and, by extension, for leadership positions in organizations,” says Wendy Tsung, assistant dean for the MBA for Executives program. Under Tsung’s leadership, the program continues to extend its reach to veterans. “Our goal is to create a diverse ecosystem that reflects the business community today,” she says. “With their proven leadership skills, often honed in difficult circumstances, veterans are a valuable addition to our community.

Matthew Gordon ’20, a former U.S. Army specialist, was among the second-year EMBA students who recently greeted incoming veterans with a welcome dinner as the semester got underway. “Yale clearly supports military veterans,” Gordon said. “Our EMBA culture is such that we rely on each other, and all of our experiences add richness and depth to our lessons. Veterans have a unique part in this.”

Several resources at Yale SOM cater specifically to veterans. Financial incentives to make the transition to the classroom easier include a waived application fee for veterans and the recently expanded Yellow Ribbon program, through which Yale SOM matches Veterans Administration funding up to the full cost of tuition and fees for eligible students.

The student-led Veterans Club offers a ready route to connect with other veterans and with the greater Yale community. “There’s a sense of camaraderie similar to what we experience in the military,” said Amie Thooft ’21, a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard.

For Thooft, Yale SOM already feels like an extension of home. “Every Friday of a class weekend, I walk through the front door and say, ‘Good morning, Kim,’” to administrative assistant Kimberly Barrow, who welcomes visitors in the front lobby of Evans Hall, “and Kim replies, ‘Good morning to you! Welcome home!’ That sense of respect and belonging is found in every contact I have at Yale SOM.”

Gordon, a physician assistant in the EMBA program’s healthcare area of focus, chose the MBA for Executives program because of his sense that healthcare increasingly needs leaders who understand both its clinical and business aspects. “I don’t know where life will take me, or what opportunities may come up, but Yale SOM will position me to make a difference.”

U.S. Army veteran Renee Greene ’21, who works in Goldman Sachs’ securities division, is in the program’s asset management area of focus. “I applied to the EMBA program to gain a fundamental understanding of asset management and the career paths in which I can leverage my experience and knowledge,” Greene says.

Scott Snider ’20, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, came with a similar goal. Snider started a healthcare company and knew that he had significant knowledge gaps. “Having come out of the military at the mid-career point, I wanted to be around an accomplished cohort,” he says. “The maturity of the EMBA class and the professional experience everyone brings make for a very positive learning experience.”

The Yale SOM mission also draws veterans to the school.

“‘Educating leaders for business and society’ speaks to the drive that many veterans already have,” Snider explained. “We aren’t just getting a business education; we’re thinking about how business impacts society every step of the way.”

Ashley Lorenz ’20, a U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, came to Yale SOM to fill gaps in her skill set and to expand her network, but it’s been the mission that’s meant the most to her.

“I knew from the second I set foot on campus that the staff, faculty, and students live this mission,” said Lorenz, who’s in the sustainability area of focus. “And the EMBA program’s culture promotes inclusion, diversity of ideas, and collaboration. Each member of the community is dedicated to each other’s success.”