School News

Q&A: MBA Students in the Armed Forces Association Sound Off About Attending Michigan Ross as Veterans, Being an AFA Member, and More

By Bridget Vis

Current and former members of the military are an important and celebrated part of the community at the Ross School of Business.

Michigan Ross is proud to provide dedicated resources and support and help launch the business careers of those who have served.

The Armed Forces Association at Michigan Ross is a student organization that helps advance the role of veterans in business. This inspiring group actively recruits prospective students who have served, helps them understand the admissions process, and makes connections with faculty to bring career goals into focus.

Ahead of Veterans Day, six AFA members, who are students in the Full-Time MBA Program, answered questions about the organization, how they are transferring their skills from the military to business school, advice they have for veterans considering pursuing their MBA at Michigan Ross, and much more. 

Kellan Arpke

Hometown: Salina, Kansas

Military division/title: U.S. Navy, surface warfare officer

Program/year: MBA ’22

Post-grad career interest: Consulting (signed a full-time offer with EY-Parthenon)

What made you as a veteran want to pursue an MBA from Michigan Ross?

When I was looking at MBA programs, I was drawn to schools that emphasized a collaborative learning environment. I wanted to replicate the feeling of camaraderie that I had felt in the military, and I really got a great sense of community when I visited campus for my interview. Ross has a very strong veterans’ presence, and MBAs from the Armed Forces Association were super helpful as I was going through the application process.

What transferable skills have you been able to use from your time serving to the Ross classroom? What skill have you gained from Ross?

You get a lot of practice with time and stress management while in the military, and it is pretty applicable to being in the MBA program. As a vet, you also have great perspective that, while things get busy and stressful, you are not on deployment. Ross has made me feel comfortable that I can contribute in the business world, that the skills I gained in the Navy are absolutely applicable, and that I have a valuable perspective to share.

What made you want to join the Armed Forces Association at Ross and what is your favorite part about being a member?

All of the help even before being admitted really spoke to the character of the people who are drawn to Ross and the AFA. They truly wanted to help me out as a vet, regardless of what program that I was accepted into. I have enjoyed paying that help forward to students who are MBA1s and those who are in the process of applying to Ross. I’ve also gained some great friendships that will last a lifetime.

Connor Eulberg

Hometown: Hudson, Ohio

Military division/title: U.S. Army, captain 

Program/year: MBA ’23

Post-grad career interest: General management

What made you want to join the Armed Forces Association at Ross and what is your favorite part about being a member?
From my first introduction to the AFA while I was applying to schools while stationed overseas, to the welcome I received at Ross, the sense of camaraderie and support I’ve felt from the men and women of the AFA is amazing. It’s an all-around quality group of people and we go out of our way to support one another.

How has your involvement in the Armed Forces Association impacted you, whether on a  personal or professional level?
My involvement in the AFA has actually landed me a couple job interviews through veteran-specific conferences they help support or put on, like the Jason George Veterans Leadership Summit and the MBA Veterans Conference. They have facilitated outstanding networking opportunities and go above and beyond helping members find a way into their dream industry or job.

What advice would you give to a veteran considering pursuing an MBA at Ross?

Come to Ross. It’s an incredible place filled with some of the highest-quality people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I have zero regrets about coming here and would recommend it to anyone looking for a rewarding, top-tier MBA experience.

Steven Hankins

Hometown: Frisco, Texas

Military division/title: U.S. Army, captain (both active duty and National Guard) 

Program/year: MBA ’23

Post-grad career interest: Corporate finance

What made you as a veteran want to pursue an MBA from Michigan Ross? 

The action-based learning model was very appealing. I wanted to learn practical skills in a challenging environment that apply directly to business leadership. The curriculum and project emphasis at Michigan Ross is all about developing real skills. 

What made you want to join the Armed Forces Association at Ross and what is your favorite part about being a member? 

My favorite part of the Armed Forces Association is the ability to connect with veterans across services and nationalities. The network made moving across the country and starting school much easier. 

What advice would you give to a veteran considering pursuing an MBA at Ross? 

I would recommend connecting with current students at the program while you are considering whether to pursue an MBA and where to attend. I was able to immediately connect to the values of the program and feel at home by talking with current student veterans at Michigan Ross when I was applying. 

Patrick Holstad

Hometown: Orangeburg, South Carolina

Military division/title: U.S. Army, captain

Program/year: MBA ’22

Post-grad career interest: Tech; customer success at Salesforce

What transferable skills have you been able to use from your time serving to the Ross classroom? What skill have you gained from Ross?

I believe most service members walk away from the military with the pretty unique experience of leading both large and small teams of people from every background imaginable in truly adverse situations. One thing I do not see discussed enough is the experience of diversity veterans have. The military brings together folks from every corner of the country and often the world, forms them into teams and places them in situations where bonds are formed, and barriers are broken quickly out of necessity. I believe veterans have an inherent sense of strength in diversity that does not exist outside of the military. 

What made you want to join the Armed Forces Association at Ross and what is your favorite part about being a member? How has your involvement in the Armed Forces Association impacted you, whether on a personal or professional level? 

When I left the military, I went into a field and area where there were not many veterans and many of my friends were scattered all over the country. While this was good in that it forced me out of the military bubble, there were times I felt kind of alone without anyone who could relate to my experience. The AFA provides that community where we can share stories and experiences that are often unique to the military. It is something I missed for a long time. 

What advice would you give to a veteran considering pursuing an MBA at Ross?

Whether you have been out of the military for a while like me or currently transitioning, investing in your career is always worth it. Ross provides exceptional opportunities to explore multiple career roles and industries, and most importantly in a community that really does value one another. While every school talks about community, rarely does it actually exist the way it does at Ross. 

Patrick Holstad, MBA ’22

Vaughn Michael

Hometown: Military brat

Military division/title: U.S. Army, captain

Program/year: MBA ’23

Post-grad career interest: Entertainment/tech

What made you as a veteran want to pursue an MBA from Michigan Ross?

What I love most about Michigan Ross is the community. As soon as I started doing my research, and reaching out to current students, I felt that I was immediately brought into the fold. People who I had never met before were willing to go above and beyond to help me. The AFA was extremely critical in that. On top of that community, it is a world-class institution that has a lot of opportunities. MAP provides me an additional opportunity to work with a company and assess the fit. The fact that this is something every student does blew me away. I knew Michigan Ross would be an excellent fit for me.

What transferable skills have you been able to use from your time serving to the Ross classroom? What skill have you gained from Ross?

Being in the Army gave me a lot of the softer skills. I had a lot of exposure to leadership. From working with small teams on a staff, and understanding cross-functional dynamics, to leading a large organization of 140 soldiers and learning to build cohesive teams. However, there were a lot of things I didn't know like finance, marketing, and strategy, and those are a lot of the skills that I’m gaining here at Ross. In just the fall A period of class, I truly learned so much and can speak much more intelligently as to how business functions. 

How has your involvement in the Armed Forces Association impacted you, whether on a  personal or professional level? 

Being part of the Armed Forces Association has not only allowed me a way to give back, but has given me a way to share my story and those I served with. I think there can be a lot of disconnect between civil and military, and the more I can talk to others about my experiences, the more people understand what it’s like, and we can help create more understanding.

Chuck Zhou

Hometown: Richardson, Texas

Military division/title: U.S. Army, engineer captain 

Program/year: MBA ’22

Post-grad career interest: General management 

What made you want to join the Armed Forces Association at Ross and what is your favorite part about being a member? 

The Ross AFA was the first club to reach out to me during the application process to Ross. Once in Ann Arbor, they organized a happy hour and really made me feel welcome. It was comforting to know that I was not the only person transitioning out of the military.

How has your involvement in the Armed Forces Association impacted you, whether on a  personal or professional level? 

Through the Jason George Veteran Leadership Seminar, I got an amazing job at a "garbage" company. If it were not for JGVLS, I would have never gotten an opportunity to hear about Republic Services and their great general manager program.

What advice would you give to a veteran considering pursuing an MBA at Ross? 

Ross is a great place to spend your GI Bill. The school is filled with amazingly helpful people. The Ann Arbor VA Hospital is one of the best in the country. Give yourself some time to adjust to civilian life and explore things that interest you at a top-tier MBA program. We've got a robust veteran group at the Ross AFA to assist with courses, recruiting, and military transition questions. Lastly, there are no mandatory formations or morning PT sessions. What more could you ask for?

Chuck Zhou, MBA ’22

 

Hear more about the Armed Forces Association's Veterans Day events on Business Beyond Usual

Learn more about the Armed Forces Association at Michigan Ross