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On Creating a Life Outside of the Classroom


By Chuck Robitaille, MBA ‘18

Two years ago, I made the decision to hang up my uniform and leave the Army to pursue an MBA at Michigan.

I was excited for new challenges and new people. But coupled with that excitement was also stress about the transition and uncertainty about if this would be the right move for my family.

Now, as I reflect on my experience over the past year and a half, I’ve come to realize that while those concerns never came to fruition, what will stick with me most are benefits that I had never originally considered.

The Ross MBA has delivered far beyond my expectations for career preparedness, opportunities, and results. But the life that my family has created here outside of the classroom has also shaped our experience in many positive ways.  

As you consider which MBA program might be the right fit for you during your two-year hiatus from the working world, I thought it might be valuable for me to share the three things I love most about living here.

1. The Sense of Community

When I left the military, I accepted the fact that I would most likely never experience a similar sense of camaraderie that I found in the Army. I wondered if I would be stereotyped by classmates with different backgrounds, or if I would be able to hold my own in a discussion on business strategies that I had never encountered as a soldier.

I quickly realized upon starting my program that there is no “typical” Ross student. My section is comprised of people that span industries, countries, and beliefs. We are a strong, diverse, and open community at Michigan. That’s why when Ross veterans share stories of leadership, courage, and perseverance at our annual VetX event, the room is filled to capacity with students from many different backgrounds and experiences.

2. The Natural Beauty

My wife and I are Southern California natives, and we’ve lived in some incredible places, including Hawaii, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest. Imagine our surprise at realizing that Michigan is one of the most beautiful places we have lived.

Ann Arbor, with its tree-lined streets, plentiful public parks, and lush outdoor spaces, is a gorgeous place to call home. One of our favorite activities is to put our daughter in a hiking backpack and explore the trail system at Nichols Arboretum, which is known around here as “the Arb.” We have also enjoyed apple and pumpkin picking, tent camping, and downtown Detroit, all within an hour drive of Ann Arbor.  

It’s also a ‘must’ to explore other parts of this beautiful state. From the fudge on Mackinac Island, (you have to try the Vanilla Pecan at Joann’s) to the crystal blue water of Michigan’s 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan is truly a hidden gem.

3. The Downtown Scene

Downtown Ann Arbor is vibrant and eclectic. We love that this is a place where great local restaurants and boutique stores thrive.

If you’re visiting Ann Arbor, one of our favorite ways to spend a Saturday afternoon is to head to Kerrytown, which is an artsy district in North Ann Arbor, and explore the abundant locally grown food at our year-round farmer’s market.

Then, cross the street to grab a Reuben at Zingerman’s deli for lunch. As you wind through the store in the inevitably long line to order, pick up souvenirs for family and friends, because who doesn’t love artisan mustards and jam made from Michigan cherries?

After lunch, check out the Hands-on Children’s Museum (whether you have kids or are a kid at heart) and finish your day by grabbing a pint at one of Ann Arbor’s many microbreweries. Your weekends will continue to stay full long after tailgating season ends.

So as the sun sets on my time in the Ross MBA Program, I am grateful for the opportunities and exceptional education I have received at the University of Michigan.

However, equally important is the sense of community and the positive memories my family will take from our time in Ann Arbor. While we may be moving on to a new city following graduation, we will always be proud to represent the maize and blue.