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Veterans at MIT Sloan on How Their Service Prepared Them for Business School

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Giving Back through the MIT Sloan Veterans Association

Both Kirk and McGovern credit veterans’ student organizations at Sloan and elsewhere for providing insights about business school and the application process when they were considering where and whether to apply. “I made a point of reaching out to all the vets clubs at all of the schools I was applying to for an unbiased look at what the process was like for them,” says Kirk. “All those conversations were hugely insightful for me, solidified that I wanted to go to a top MBA program and helped rule out some of the cultures that I felt weren’t necessarily right for me.”

They both immediately found their way to the MIT Sloan Veterans Association when they got to campus. Kirk became VP of admissions for the club, responsible for interacting with the admissions team and prospective veterans trying to make the decision he had just made. “It felt like I had something I could offer my fellow vets–this is vets helping vets–our job is to help other vets transition from the military into whatever business school is best for them and help them make the right choice,” he says.

This year, as co-presidents, Kirk and McGovern will leave the interactions with prospective applicants largely to first-years in the club and focus more of their efforts on helping other veterans make the transition to business school and the business world, including through a new mentor-buddy system pairing each first-year veteran with a second-year veteran who has made the transition and knows some of the challenges involved. Another focus is on improving alumni relations for veterans at MIT Sloan , including developing a database and integrating Sloan alumni veterans into the community through happy hours, alumni panels and the like.

A final key goal of the MIT Sloan Veterans Association is work to better connect the military vets with the rest of their MIT classmates. “I am passionate about bridging that gap between the military and my civilian counterparts,” Kirk says. “There seems to be a lot of ambiguity, and in some ways I think that gap may even be widening,” he continues. “People are curious about the military but don’t really understand our backgrounds or what we bring to the community.”

To share some of their unique backgrounds with and give back to their civilian counterparts, the group also last year launched a January course for classmates in which they helped impart some of the leadership lessons they learned in the military. There are plans to expand upon this offering this year.

But perhaps the greatest contribution veterans at Sloan make to their classmates is providing a sense of perspective and calm. “I think the veterans at least at Sloan are known to handle pressure very well,” says McGovern. “It’s hectic and busy and you’re always getting assignments, but we remain calm under pressure, which seems to have this calming effect.”

Kirk tells a similar tale. “The stress of going through the core semester at Sloan was not even comparable to the stress that I faced every day of being on a submarine,” Kirk says. “When my classmates began to freak out about too many assignments too many requirements, I could just sit back and be relaxed,” he says, which he thinks helped them relax a little. “Guys, no one is going to die here. We are going to get through it.”

Learn more about the MIT Sloan Veterans Association.