Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business believes in developing leadership skills in its students. For military veterans like Greg Mendez, that makes the MBA program an excellent fit.
Mendez earned an undergraduate degree in physics at the U.S. Military Academy and spent five years on active duty with the U.S. Army after graduation, stationed at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina and completing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. After two additional years in the Army Reserve, he went to work for a small proprietary trading firm and then moved to Toronto to work for Amazon, launching its first fulfillment center in the country.
“Going to the military was a great opportunity for me to get leadership experience right away,” Mendez says. “My first assignment was being in charge of 16 people. My largest assignment was more than 130 people in a company. I was managing a wide range of issues, people from a host of socioeconomic backgrounds. Definitely that leadership experience can be helpful in business school.”
Mendez decided to pursue an MBA to obtain the business skills that would complement his leadership experience. He applied to several schools, but his visit to MSU’s campus helped seal his decision.
“For me, the biggest selling point was when my wife and I visited campus, what that interaction was like,” he says. “At other campuses, I just got escorted around in a group of students with a student ambassador, whereas at MSU, we got a lot of one-on-one time with admissions staff. That made a big difference for us.”
Mendez says the existence of Broad’s Spartan Spouses and Significant Others (S3) group also helped steer his decision. The army has what is called a Family Readiness Group (FRG), and MSU was the only school Mendez found with something similar. S3 plans regular activities and events for spouses.
“Knowing I was going to be gone all the time at school, I wanted to be sure my wife would make friends and have stuff to do,” Mendez says. “Coming from the military, veterans are very familiar with FRG. It’s an aspect of MSU’s program that doesn’t get enough attention. A lot of people coming back to school after working five or six years are probably married or have kids. It’s a really helpful support group.”
Mendez enrolled at Broad in August 2012. He is now the vice president of prospective student outreach for the Broad MBA Veterans Association. Many vets, he says, are experienced in supply chain management, logistics, and operations—backgrounds that fit well with business careers.
During his first year, he worked as a graduate assistant on the MSU Student Investment Fund, a small cap fund the university runs out of the MSU Foundation. Fox Business News invited him and two other students to come on “Money with Melissa Francis” to discuss their stock selections.
The experience, both with the fund and on the program, helped his job search, he says. He, his wife, and their new baby will move to Milwaukee after graduation so that Mendez can begin a job as an equity research associate with Robert W. Baird, a small investment bank.
“Working on the Student Investment Fund, in general, really helped me fine-tune my thoughts about the market, and then I could convey that in interviews,” he says. “My job is one I would not have gotten without that graduate assistantship.”