Wharton MBA Program Links Veterans, Businesses

 @LauraMatt
on November 11 2011 5:54 PM

At just 29 years old, Joe Kistler, a former Marine captain, has already made some impact on the world. He was an infantry officer for the U.S. Marine Corp., giving six-and-a-half years of military service to his country.

Kistler has been deployed twice to Iraq: first in 2005 for one year and for the second time in 2007 for about seven months. During those years, he has served roles to include a platoon commander and company executive officer. Kistler's duties included taking care of four military vehicles and leading a group of 30 marines and sailors, performing humanitarian aid and training Iraqi soldiers and policemen during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Now the veteran has his sights set on a new task: finishing business school.

Kistler is currently a second-year finance student at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the co-president of the Wharton Veterans Club, a 75-member professional club within the school's graduate association.

The members in the club are on a mission to raise awareness of Wharton MBA students who have served in the armed forces in different countries, which currently includes Israel, Korea, Australia, Norway and Brazil.

We get along incredibly well, Kistler said. We have a lot of camaraderie. We consider ourselves great friends... It is a great environment. Everyone is collaborative.

MBA programs like Wharton are on a mission to actively seek out military veterans. The school said that employers are also taking special steps to do the same and have veterans take part in internships and management programs.

President Barack Obama announced last month that nearly all troops will withdraw from Iraq by the year's end, effectively bringing the war in Iraq to an end. It's been approximately a decade since American troops have been in Iraq.

On Veterans Day on Friday, Obama spoke at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where he said the administration will help the new service members adjust to civilian life when they return home.

Obama said he has ordered that the federal government hire more veterans.

Our economy needs their tremendous talents and specialized skills, Obama said. So I challenged our business leaders to hire 100,000 post-9/11 veterans and their spouses over the next few years and yesterday, many of these leaders joined Michelle to announce that they will meet that challenge.

He also said that veterans are seeking new adventures that include taking on a new business and building a team of globetrotting veterans who use their combat skills to help after a natural disaster.

There are also so many in this young generation who still feel that tug to serve, but just don't quite know where to turn,' Obama said. So on this Veterans Day, I ask every American, recruit our veterans.

If you're a business owner, hire them, he added. If you're a community leader -- a mayor, a pastor or a preacher -- call on them to join your efforts. Organize your community to make a sustained difference in the life of a veteran because that veteran can make an incredible difference in the life of your community.

Over the past 10 years, more than five million Americans have worn the uniform of the U.S. Armed Forces, Obama said, adding that of that number, three million stepped forward after the 9/11 attacks.

Obama also said over the next five years, more than one million service members will make the transition from the military to civilian life. They will join almost three million who have done the same over the last 10 years, Obama said.

As lead officers of Wharton's Veteran Club, Kistler and Aaron Perrine have had success with Wharton Veterans Prospective Student Day events. More than 45 veterans have traveled to Philadelphia in order to learn more about Wharton's MBA experience and its admissions process.

For Veterans Day, the club hosted a happy hour, MBA Pub Night, on Nov. 10, in order to raise money for some veterans-focused charities.

Kistler believes that Wharton can be another option for the veterans when they return home at the end of the year.

I would say Wharton has all the tools to make you that much more capable when you leave the military to enter the private sector, Kistler said.

He said there can be challenges at first, especially because veterans have been out the school system for a while. But Kistler said those challenges are easy to overcome by working hard.

Every veteran who takes part in Wharton's program leaves the school with a job in finance, consulting and general management.

Maryellen Reilly Lamb, director of MBA Career Management at Wharton, said that the school has had great interest from investment banks and consulting firms, as well as a growing number of technology firms.

They're all interested in the leadership skills as well as teamwork the veterans can bring to their organizations, Lamb said. The vets have a unique ability to transition seamlessly between being a member of the team to leading the team and back that many employers really value.

Kistler said Google and Amazon are some of the biggest technology companies hiring American heroes.

He added that the collaboration between the classmates, businesses and career management is a recipe for success.

Watch Obama give his speech in the video below. You can also read his full speech here.

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