I am a second-year Daytime MBA student and currently serve as the president of the Duke MBA Armed Forces Association (DAFA). Prior to Fuqua, I graduated from West Point in 2007, served for 5 years as an active duty Army Captain, and was stationed in Oklahoma, Virginia, Colorado, Afghanistan, and Maryland. But enough about me — the real reason I’m so excited to be a guest blogger is to tell you about an incredible event that recently took place here on campus.

Just a few weeks ago, DAFA and the Fuqua Admissions team co-hosted the second annual Veterans Symposium for Military Applicants. The Fuqua community recognizes and values the experience and leadership attributes of military veterans, who now represent the fastest growing student group throughout all of Duke University’s academic programs. From 2011 to 2013, the total number of veterans in the Daytime MBA program each year has increased from 11 to 21 to 39 today, demonstrating the importance of veterans within Fuqua’s diverse student body.

For the symposium, we were fortunate to host 34 MBA applicants who have served or are currently serving in our nation’s armed forces. The symposium’s agenda addressed the most pressing questions on the minds of our guests, who despite their remarkable leadership records, often struggle to translate how those experiences will help them become Leaders of Consequence within the walls of Fuqua and in the business world.

obstacle course
Symposium attendees and current students crawl through an obstacle course during Fuqua Friday.

Event Provides Inside Look at Fuqua

Beginning with an introduction from Dean Bill Boulding, the symposium included overviews of the admissions process, the Fuqua academic curriculum, the Career Management Center, and the Yellow Ribbon and Post-9/11 GI Bill programs. Participants and their spouses/partners had the opportunity to have lunch with some of Fuqua’s 39 current veteran students, whose conversations ranged from admissions interview tips to combat stories to the evening’s DAFA-sponsored Fuqua Friday. The afternoon’s events kicked off with an alumni panel of Fuqua veterans who took time out of their professional schedules to venture back to Durham. The panel provided a forum for our guests to ask questions about how the alumni successfully transitioned from the military to Fuqua and eventually to the business world — and, of course, why Fuqua is the best place to start.

Headlining the symposium was keynote speaker Matt Moellering, who is the Chief Operating Officer of Express, Inc. Matt is a 1988 West Point graduate and served as an active duty Army officer before earning his MBA from Fuqua in 1995, and he was thrilled by the opportunity to speak about his career path and experiences. He described some of the skill sets that he believes veterans bring to business, as well as weaker areas that the two-year Fuqua experience helped him transform into strengths.

obstacle course
Throwing “grenades” at a mini UNC mascot during the obstacle course.

Following the keynote address, our guests participated in a mock class with Professor Grainne Fitzsimons to experience the learning environment at Fuqua. The final event of the day was the DAFA and Beer Club-sponsored Fuqua Friday, which is essentially a big party that celebrates the end of each week. In addition to the Oktoberfest theme, the highlight of the event was a military obstacle course. Teams of students competed to complete the course as quickly as possible. The obstacle course included low-crawling, burpee pushups, infantry movement tactics, and “grenade” throwing toward the UNC mascot.

Following the evening’s social festivities, nearly all of our guests threw their game faces back on and conducted their required admissions interviews the next morning. Finally, the symposium concluded with a farewell lunch and attendees were given free tickets to the Duke vs. Navy football game, which was fittingly Duke Football’s Military Appreciation Day.

The symposium was an unrivaled opportunity for our guests to learn first-hand what Fuqua is all about, and how our robust veteran network is dedicated to helping us find the best possible career paths after B-school. But don’t take it from me — one of our veteran guests sent us a note after the event:

“Thank you for all the help and advice the past few days. The Veterans Symposium was a true first class experience. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it and are extremely excited about the chance to join Team Fuqua. Your hard work putting such a fantastic event together is greatly appreciated.”

We’re so pleased that our guests enjoyed the event so much, and hopefully got a much better feel for Team Fuqua. If you’re a veteran and you’re interested in Fuqua, please send us an email at dukearmedforcesassociation@duke.edu. We look forward to seeing you at next year’s symposium! Keep an eye on the symposium website for info about the next event.