Military veterans look to business education after service


In Wharton’s MBA program, which consists of about 1,700 students, 60 have military experience




Wharton MBA student Joseph Kistler, like many of his peers, spent several years in a leadership position before stepping into Huntsman Hall.

But the uniform he wore to work was significantly different from what his most of his classmates wear today. Before enrolling in Wharton, he served as a marine for six years in Iraq.

For this year’s Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, Kistler and the Wharton Veterans Club will be raising money to help two veteran charities. The Pub Night on Nov. 10 will feature a silent auction.

In Wharton’s MBA program, which consists of about 1,700 students, 60 have military experience, Kistler said. About 40 of these served in the United States, and represent “virtually every branch” of the military, he added.

Like other veteran students, Kistler decided to turn to business instead of creating a military career. Here at Penn, he helps those who decided to change fields transition through his role as co-president of the Wharton Veterans Club.

This October, the club held a military prospective student day. Kistler was able to act as “an advocate to veterans who are thinking about the MBA process.”

Although Wharton’s MBA program often asks students to share their business world experiences in the classroom, Kistler said veteran students have a unique outlook, adding that many have significant experience overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kistler believes there is “a ton of overlap — you’re leading people [and] making decisions in complex environments.”

Wharton professor Michael Useem enjoys having veterans in his classes.

“I’ve noticed that veterans know [how to communicate], I don’t have to teach them that,” Useem said.

In his leadership program, Useem has worked with military schools such as West Point in West Point, N.Y., and the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., to learn how the military builds leaders.

Kistler has found similarities between the business and military worlds. It is important for leaders to exercise intuition and judgement in both settings, since they are often gaps in information, he said.

MBA veterans are “used to doing more with less [and are] able to solve problems,” Kistler added.

During fall and spring, a program takes around 100 Wharton MBAs out of the classroom and to a United States Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va. This Quantico Military Simulation allows students to partake in individual and team-based leadership activities that include mental and physical challenges.

“Veterans in our MBA program play a major role in organizing and facilitating that experience,” Useem added.

On campus, the Wharton Veterans Club is active in the community with numerous veteran initiatives, such as the upcoming Pub Night.

“We help as much as we can,” Kistler added.

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