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Real Humans of MBA Students: Washington University Olin MBA Class of 2023

washington olin mba class 2023

washington olin mba class 2023Brendan Barry, Washington University Olin MBA Class of 2023 

Age: 30
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Missouri – Columbia. Bachelors of Science in Business Administration.
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): After graduating from the University of Missouri in 2014,  I served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps as an Infantry Officer, where I led teams from 30-200 in ground combat operations. I deployed twice to South Korea and Japan, where I trained with partner nations near the DMZ and coordinated training exercises throughout the Pacific region. I finished up my time in the military working with Drill Instructors to train recruits through boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. I left the military in 2020 to help grow a non-profit startup that was focused on reducing food insecurity in Kansas City, Missouri.

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I chose to go to business school to develop myself for roles with higher responsibility in the corporate world. While working in a non-profit, I realized how a fundamental understanding of business is needed to build organizations and help them grow. I knew that if I paired my leadership experience with a substantial business education, I could bring value to an organization.

Why did you choose Washington Olin? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I do not have an extensive business background, so I chose Washington Olin because of its focus on experiential learning. I wanted to find a school that would let me practice what I had learned in real-world situations. Olin Center for Experiential Learning allowed me to study and understand the curriculum with exciting opportunities.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
I think my experience in the military brings a lot of value to my class. I led a lot of teams and had exposure to high-stress situations. I learned to develop a sense of calmness that I think most of my classmates appreciate, especially during group projects.

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I love the outdoors and I am always trying to find a new hobby that will get me outside more. I have been lucky enough to live in some very amazing places where I could hike, surf, and ski throughout the year. I’ve just started road biking and looking to get into mountain biking next.

Post-MBA career interests:
I’m very interested in management consulting roles while also exploring entrepreneurship opportunities.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
Your application is a combination of your experience, grades, test scores, and personal story. If your grades or test scores aren’t as competitive as other applicants, you can make up for this with substantial and relevant experiences.

–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Take an introspective look at my life; this is the only time in your career that you get to reflect on your past experiences and what you want to do with your future career.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
There is not much I would change. But looking back, I would have emphasized studying for entrance exams more. It was very challenging for me to leave the military, start a new career, and study for the GMAT. The earlier you start preparing, the better off you will be.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
 think I would have skipped through some of the networking events, but I’m glad I didn’t. Alumni and current students encouraged me to attend some of the events hosted by schools that really opened my eyes to the diverse offerings at each university.

What is your initial impression of the Washington Olin students/culture/community?
It is an incredibly tight-knit group that cares about each other. The class size is less than 100, which means you get to know all of your classmates and learn from them immediately.

What is one thing you have learned about Washington Olin that has surprised you?
Washington Olin has stronger ties to the St. Louis community than I expected. The faculty does a great job of connecting students with any industries or companies they find interesting.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
The pandemic had affected everything in higher education. I was lucky enough to experience the positive effects. I was able to find an excellent GMAT preparation program for a discounted price because it was offered online through Zoom.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Recruiting for summer internships starts very early in the MBA journey. It can be very stressful hearing all of your peers talk about recruiting, interviews, and offers from other companies. Remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Trust the MBA process, work hard in classes, explore careers you are interested in, and everything will work out.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m most excited about getting to connect with my classmates. Getting to meet and grow relationships with people from varying backgrounds is a fantastic experience.

Posted in: Military, Real Humans of MBA Class of 2023, Real Humans of MBA Students

Schools: Washington U. / Olin

About the Author


Lauren Wakal

Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.

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