Tag: Veterans


Sontaya Sherrell, MBA ’18 and vice president for communications for the Olin Veterans Association, provided this blog post on behalf of the organization.

The Olin Veterans Association had the great pleasure of hosting its Fifth Annual Dining Out ceremony at the Bellerive Country Club. This traditional black-tie event on March 29 consisted of military rituals, lighthearted banter, and words of wisdom imparted from our admirable guest of honor, Maj. Gen. David Bellon, commander, US Marine Corps Forces, South.

How does the OVA improve student veterans’ experience at Olin?

Maj. Gen. David G. Bellon, US Marine Corps

Maj. Gen. David G. Bellon, US Marine Corps

The OVA is an invaluable element of the veteran student experience at Olin Business School. The ability to offer and receive support and advice from those who share unique, yet similar experiences with you—from military service, to the transition from service member to student, to navigating the rigors of a challenging MBA program—is greatly appreciated and valued by OVA’s members.

The OVA provides a fellowship of individuals with shared perspective and the ability to understand the unique challenges encountered during and after this transition. In addition to this support that is so valued, OVA members benefit from the excellent array of resources and financial support available to veteran students.

Access to key business leaders offering mentorship, advice, and professional development opportunities provides an unmatched experience for OVA members.

What are some of the traditions of OVA Dining Out, for those less familiar with military rituals?

Among the traditional rituals at the Dining Out, guests were invited to answer for violations of the written rules of the evening by paying a fine—all of which supports the Olin Veterans Scholarship Fund—or having a drink from the dreaded “grog bowl,” which features a hodgepodge of questionable ingredients mixed into one punch.

A few of the lighthearted rules guests could potentially be punished for include wearing a clip-on bow tie at an obvious angle, using excessive military slang or jargon, or wearing clip-on suspenders.

Guests were expected to adhere to an honor system in recognizing their own infractions or could be reported for an infraction by another attendee. Balancing out these more amusing aspects of the event were more solemn traditions, one of which included the recognition of those who could not be with us that evening.

OVA members and guests honored our nation’s prisoners of war and missing in action (POW/MIA) service members with a moment of silence, a toast, and a speech honoring their contributions and sacrifice.

What was your favorite part of this year’s event?

My favorite part of the evening was listening to Maj. Gen. Bellon recount elements of his experience during his 28-year career in the US Marine Corps.

With all the dignity and poise of an esteemed military leader, Bellon recounted lessons on the intersection and divergence of the concepts of leadership and management that he’s accumulated over his years of service, effortlessly commanding the attention of everyone in the room with his powerful and heartfelt remarks. It was a true honor to host him at this year’s event as our guest of honor.

Eric Maddox, EMBA graduate, 2016.

Eric Maddox has been a four-times-decorated US Army interrogator, known for bringing in the intelligence that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein. He’s an author, who detailed the five-month hunt for the former Iraqi leader in his 2008 book Mission: Black List #1. He’s a motivational speaker, consultant, and negotiator. He’s an Olin alumnus who earned his Executive MBA in 2016.

And he’s recently added a new item to his long list of credentials: He’s now a podcaster.

Maddox launched the first episode of his online show “Creating Influence” on January 4 with a nearly five-minute introduction that explains how he has moved from a military interrogator to a professional negotiator.

“I was taught to use interrogation techniques that were zero sum game—they were intimidating, they were harsh—but I quickly realized they didn’t work at all,” Maddox says in his introduction. “What I learned to do was to connect, collaborate, negotiate, understand, and work with my prisoners.”

Now, he says, after 15 years of negotiating and interrogating, talking and attempting to influence people, he’s learned a few lessons that he says will apply to anyone—not just military prisoners.

“The bottom line is that when you talk to somebody, your goal is to connect with them, get to understand them, build trust with them, in order that they make a decision to follow you, to believe in you, to partner with you,” he said. “But all of that, that decision they make, that comes from the influence that you give to them.”

Maddox explains that the weekly podcast takes a deep dive into the psychology of influence and how to hone skills that will serve individuals in their businesses and daily lives.

Episodes focus on themes such as “the single most effective behavioral characteristic a person can have to maximize influence” and, in his most recent episode today, “what helps fuel hope, which aids in perseverance.”

Photo, above: Harry Schmidt, Passavant President and CEO. Photo credit: Passavant Area Hospital

We’re always excited to see Olin alumni in the news, and this interview with Harry Schmidt, EMBA 44, caught our attention in particular.

Harry came to Olin’s Executive MBA program with a full military career under his belt, having served as a pilot in the Navy for 20 years. He is currently the President and CEO of Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois, overseeing 960 employees and a $120 million budget.

Harry was recently a guest on Beyond the Uniform, a podcast that showcases veterans and their transitions into new careers. Harry spoke with Beyond the Uniform Founder and Host Justin Nassiri about planning his transition to a new career, the leadership advantages veterans bring to employment, and his choice to pursue an Executive MBA degree at Olin. Check out highlights from the podcast, or listen to the full interview below:

When you were on active duty, how did you start to prepare for your transition?

It’s a great question because there’s a ton of uncertainty and ambiguity regardless if you’re leaving after one tour or after a full career. I started the process late, probably about six months before retiring which is not a lot of time. I was very fortunate that I had a neighbor who was able to help me through the process. This ultimately ended up being the tie that got me into healthcare.

When a service member is transitioning, I think it’s important to set boundaries and parameters for what kind of a job or career you want afterward. Otherwise, you could end up chasing something that’s someone else’s dream. It could be a fit for someone else but not for you. My family and I wanted to come back to the mid-west. That was the fit for us.

What the civilian sector is looking for is leadership skills—the leadership skills we have learned through getting a lot of responsibility early in our careers, dealing with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. People in the civilian sector are looking for people that can handle these situations and make great decisions within volatility and uncertainty. That’s the skillset that’s transferrable regardless of your warfare specialty.

At what point did you decide to pursue an Executive MBA at Washington University?

It’s been one of the pivotal points in my short civilian career, and I don’t think I would have this role as CEO of a hospital without that education. As veterans, we learn a lot just through on-the-job experience. We learn about finance and budgeting through the money our team or department is allocated each year. But in a lot of ways, we miss out on the revenue side of the operating statement. Taxpayers are giving us our revenue when we’re in the military so it’s a little different.

Regardless of your specialty in the military, the MBA can be a good way to round out your skillset and learn about terminology. I initially looked at a school and started a traditional MBA program, taking classes at night. But it was a little bit disjointed. I didn’t feel like I was being challenged in a way that I wanted to be. So I started looking at different opportunities and found the Washington University EMBA program. In the Executive MBA format, we met once a month for 2-3 days and then worked on projects together in between those meetings. The format set me towards what I wanted to do. I moved through the 20-month program with the same group of people in a cohort fashion. We were able to challenge each other because we had similar levels of experience.

I would also add that sometimes people think it’s just about the letters behind your name. But that mentality will only get you so far. More than the degree itself, I want to know where the person got that degree from. I want to know that they had meaningful conversations about business with others in the program, that they had negotiations and debate. Work gets done in business through relationships, so I want to know that a person developed these skills during their degree program.

What advice would you give to a transitioning military member that feels intimidated by the thought of “starting over” in the civilian sector?

Be a life-long learner. Don’t be afraid to learn something new or take advantage of a new opportunity. Most people would be happy to sit down with you if you wanted to learn more about their industry or what they are doing. Use LinkedIn, make a meaningful connection. I would also recommend various veterans networks. I’m working right now with a group called Elite Meet. It’s a group that looks to connect former special forces and fighter pilots with private sector opportunities. There was also a really strong veterans network at Washington University. I’m sure this is the same at many other schools as well. There’s so many people out there that are willing to help and want you to be successful.

We love to share updates on our alumni with the Olin community. If you have news to share, let us know at blog@olin.wustl.edu.

“Dear Friends, Family and Colleagues: I’ve run three marathons but never on a glacier in the South Pole at 20 below.”

Marc Wolf, MBA’09

That’s how Marc Wolf, MBA ’09, begins his fundraising pitch for the Antarctic Ice Marathon in Union Glacier that he plans to run in November.

The former Naval intelligence officer and current New York Regional Director of Development at the Navy SEAL Foundation plans to run the marathon Nov. 24, 2017 to raise awareness and funds for the foundation.

Wolf served as an anti-submarine warfare intelligence officer  in the US Navy Patrol & Reconnaissance Forces 5th/7th fleets from 2002-2005. From 2005-2006, he served as an Operational Intelligence officer with US Navy SEAL Team TWO.

“We are running this race to honor and pay tribute to a colleague, friend, father and husband, Brian Hoke. Brian was a former Navy SEAL and was serving as a government employee when he was killed in action overseas last Fall. Brian was a tremendous supporter and believed in the mission of the Navy SEAL Foundation (NSF), and it was NSF who immediately supported and continues to support Brian’s family. Our intent is to not only raise awareness for the Navy SEAL Foundation, but also raise funds to support programs making a direct impact on the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Community. Our goal, as a team, is to raise in excess of $100,000; and I challenge you to donate whatever you can to support this noble cause.”                    – Marc Wolf

Link to donate at Marc’s Crowdrise page.

Click above to watch video of the Navy SEAL team that ran the 2014 Polar Circle Marathon.

This blog post was changed March 21, 2019, to correctly characterize Marc Wolf’s service position in the Navy.

The Olin Veterans Association (OVA) hosted their 4th Annual Dining Out Ceremony at the prestigious St. Louis Racquet Club. The crowd included thirty current MBA Veterans from all five branches of service, representation from thirty-six St. Louis companies including sixty prominent executives. The guests of honor were Jack Senneff, the President of the Mess, an Army Ranger Regiment Officer and current Managing Director at Thompson Street Capital Partners; the Keynote Speaker Jason Frei, a Marine Officer and current Director at Boeing Defense; and Mark Taylor, Dean of Olin Business School.

The Olin Veterans Association Military Dining Out Ceremony is an annual event to celebrate the partnership between the OVA and St. Louis business leaders who support Veterans with their time, expertise, and mentorship. Danny Henry, the OVA President and McKinsey Consultant, along with Joe Piganelli, the incoming OVA president, spent countless hours leading student and faculty teams to orchestrate the event and successfully doubled the headcount from the 2016 event.

Dean Mark Taylor was impressed with his first dining out experience, “I was deeply honored to host this event with the Olin Veterans Association…this momentous occasion celebrated the service of our military veterans and the tremendous support of our business community.”

The evening incorporated time honored military traditions such as Washington University’s ROTC Color Guard posting the American flag, a Washington University a capella group singing the National Anthem, and attendees raising their water glasses for a silent toast to remember our fallen comrades.

A crowd-favorite tradition was chastising guests who violated the Rules of the Mess. For example, one rule states, “Thou shalt not murder the Queen’s English.” If found guilty of murdering the Queen’s English, a penalty could include a monetary fine that supported Veteran scholarships and a trip to the “Grog Bowl”. The grog bowl was a combination of symbolic liquids and solids mixed together to represent the sacrifices of the Veterans both in combat and the MBA program. The crowd enjoyed the good-natured revelry as guests cited each other for violations.

Several current student OVA members to were able to enjoy the evening with their employers. Joe Rieser dined with his future supervisor Chip Hiemenz, the Director of Business Development at Hunter Engineering, and Dan Vitale sat with his former boss Rob Godlewski, Vice President of Commercial and Residential Solutions at Emerson. Dan enjoyed connecting with Rob again, “From the first day Rob ensured me that Emerson and the St. Louis Business community were committed to helping Olin Veteran Association members transition.”

The highlight of the night, was the guest speaker, Jason Frei. Jason, Director of Ethics and Business Conduct at Boeing Defense, a Purple Heart recipient, and an Eisenhower Fellow, centered his speech around his tenure as a Marine Artillery Officer. Jason was a natural born leader and the Marine Corps discipline and desire to bring the fight to the enemy was one of the main reasons he joined the Corps. He emphasized that his success was a result of his desire to lead Marines and he took every measure possible to keep them alive.

Unfortunately, Jason’s convoy was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), an event that physically and mentally changed his life and altered his career. After losing part of his arm, he decided to leave the Marine Corps and find a different path to lead and make an impact. He immediately enrolled in the MBA program at Notre Dame to launch him on his new career. Jason may have stopped serving in the Marine Corps however he took the lessons and leadership and brought them to Boeing Defense.

The OVA would like to thank the many guests that attended and to express our appreciation of the ongoing support of our faculty, staff, alumni, and honored guests. We look forward to the continued impact our veteran students make to our program and our community. Thank you to all our active duty service men and women for their continued sacrifice. We are grateful for those veterans who have served, many who are no longer with us today, and honor them with this event.

Guest Blogger: James Jacobs
VP of Communications, Olin Veteran’s Association
MBA ’17

mfs17_top10UPDATE: December 8, 2016, Victory Media announced today special awards for its 2017 Military Friendly® Employers and 2017 Military Friendly® Schools. Washington University was named a Top 10 School. Link to Press Release.

Olin Business School is proud to be named a Military Friendly School by Victory Media’s trademarked program that benchmarks and rates colleges and companies nationwide, helping veterans and military families make well-informed decisions about education and career opportunities.

Excerpts from the Nov. 10, 2016 Press Release:

Victory Media, originator of the family of Military Friendly® employment, entrepreneurship and education resources for veterans and their families, announced Nov. 10 its list of 2017 Military Friendly® Employers and 2017 Military Friendly® Schools.

mfs17_designationSignificant technological investment into the evaluation process enhanced the breadth of data evaluated, resulting in 210 Military Friendly® Employers and 1,273 Military Friendly® Schools recognized for their support of the military community. For more than a decade, the Military Friendly® ratings have set the standard for companies and colleges that provide positive employment and education outcomes for veterans and their families.

“Our ability to apply a clear, consistent standard across thousands of employers and schools gives veterans a comprehensive view of those striving to provide the best opportunities and conditions for our nation’s veterans,” said Daniel Nichols, Chief Product Officer of Victory Media and head of Military Friendly® development. “Relating data from companies and colleges positions us to further our goal of supporting service members and veterans along their entire path from military service to success in their chosen civilian career field.”

More Comprehensive Scoring Criteria

A significant change for 2017 was the consideration of three data sources in the scoring methodology: publicly available data from federal agencies; personal opinion data from veteran employees or students; and proprietary Military Friendly® survey data from participating organizations. Final results were determined by combining an organization’s survey scores with an assessment of the organization’s ability to meet minimum thresholds in six areas critical to success:

  • Employers—Military Employee Application, Hiring, Turnover, Promotion & Advancement rates and National Guard and Reserve policies.
  • Schools—Student Veteran Retention, Graduation, Job Placement, Loan Repayment, Persistence and Loan Default rates.

Each year, employers and schools competing for the Military Friendly(R) designation are challenged to a higher standard than in previous years via improved methodology, criteria and weightings developed with the assistance of an independent research firm and our Advisory Council. This year, Victory Media has published online federal contractors and schools that receive federal education benefits that would be eligible for the Military Friendly® designation based on public data. However, only those companies and colleges that completed the Military Friendly® survey were considered for and eligible to receive the Military Friendly® designation and special awards.

Recognizing Excellence

Also new for 2017 are Military Friendly® awards, showcasing the most powerful and effective military programs in the workplace and on campuses nationwide. Awards for Top 10, Gold, Silver and Bronze winners by category (annual revenue for employers and institution type for schools) will be announced on December 8. The move from a binary designation of “Are you Military Friendly®?” to “How Military Friendly® are you?” will highlight outstanding organizations that support veterans and their families.

“Companies and colleges no longer ask ‘why’ recruit military as employees and students. They realize that veterans are graduates of the premier training institution in the world: the U.S. military,” said Navy veteran Chris Hale, CEO and Co-Founder of Victory Media.

The 2017 Military Friendly® Employers and Schools lists are available online at https://militaryfriendly.com and will be printed in the December issue of G.I. Jobs® and in the iannual Guide to Military Friendly® Schools.Read more about Military Friendly® ratings, methodology, and awards, or request a survey link, at https://militaryfriendly.com.

Photos from the OVA Dining Out event in 2014, by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.