March 22, 2019 | 47° F

Rutgers veteran MBA program repurposes military skills for the business world

Photo by Henry Fowler |

The Mini-MBA: Business Management for Military and Veterans offered by the Rutgers Business School (RBS) prepares veteran undergraduate students for a smoother transition into the workforce, helping them build careers from skills they acquired throughout their time in the military.

Veteran undergraduate students make up roughly 4 percent of the student body. Because of this, the Rutgers Business School now offers a Mini-MBA: Business Management for Military and Veterans program that serves veterans, transitioning military personnel, ROTC students and undergraduate students returning from military service, according to RBS's site. 

Margaret O' Donnell, the program manager with Rutgers Business School, said the program is customized for veterans transitioning into the workforce, helping them make sound business decisions in their careers. The model for the Mini-MBA program is roughly equivalent to a 3-credit course present in a full scale MBA program. 

She said the program offers classes in a compact format, starting on Monday morning and finishing Friday afternoon. It is a full-day course, and each topic is taught by a different instructor for 3.5 hours. For example, leadership is covered by one instructor and later the same day a different instructor covers a different topic such as human resources. 

Eric Kropiwnicki, a graduate of the Mini-MBA program, started his own company, Broken Gear Wear, a clothing line designed for disabled athletes and veterans. 

“It felt like I was amongst my brothers again in the classroom," he said. "We were on the same sheet of music and on a similar goal. The professors gave us a sense of 'yes, American businesses need you. American business is sick of the suits. It craves real leadership and that is something important you can bring from your military experiences to the business world.'" 

The Mini-MBA program is not just for people who have an interest in starting veteran-related businesses, but rather for all graduates transiting into many different fields, O'Donnell said.  

Businesses such as Amazon, who do not subscribe themselves to veteran services but offer a veteran friendly environment, attract graduates, O'Donnell said. Additionally, students who are enrolled in the veteran degree program that are not pursuing business degrees, do so to understand how their industry fits into business

“They understand that when they have a leadership role in that industry — for example, manager of a department of their field — they are going to need business skills for it to better understand financial statements, human resources and leadership strategy even if they're pursuing degree in chemical engineering. So they take this Mini-MBA to enhance their own degree in their field,” she said.

The Mini-MBA, priced on the same module as other Mini-MBA programs at Rutgers, is $4,995. The tuition includes an iPad, which the students can keep at the end of the program, and daily meals according to their site. 

The G.I. Bill, an educational resource for people who serve in the military, can be used as a source for funding student education, O' Donnell said. The bill helps veterans pay tuition toward bachelors degrees, advanced degrees, certificate programs, vocational training and all valuable things that would help them obtain civilian employment. 

“As a small business owner, I was able to implement key principles into my business that I learned from the Mini-MBA. There was never a point within this course where I was questioning why I'm leaning this topic, nor was there a point in the course where I was left confused,” said Joseph Tepfenhart, a graduate of the program.

Tepfenhart owns a small business named Disgruntled Vets, a social network for veterans designed to help them find jobs, combat homelessness and assist with suicide prevention, according to their site.  

People in the military receive a lot of training and professional development, but they learn to use it in a military setting, not in a business setting, O'Donnell said. With a little bit of help, those who come out of the military can transition those skills to the business world. 

“Because in the military, a great deal of modesty is valued where one does not look at individual accomplishments but only look at their accomplishments as a team. So we help them transition to the world where individual accomplishments are accepted," O'Donnell said. 

Jaehyun Kim

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