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Real Humans of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School MBA Class of 2024

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Mark Lucia, Johns Hopkins MBA/MPH Class of 2024

Age: 33
Hometown: Albany, NY
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Anthropology  – State University at Albany
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 9 years Army Special Forces Medic, 1 year Mental Health Research/Program Supervisor

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
My decision to attend business school was surprising to everyone, including myself. I was transitioning from the military and planning on my next steps. Having spent years working as a “physician extender” in the military, I thought the next move would be medical school or physician assistant school. Due to the way my prerequisites were lining up, I would need at least 1-2 extra years to apply to these programs. I figured that during that time, I would do an MPH. When I saw the JHU dual degree program, I became super interested. I applied, wondering what I would do if I got accepted. It slowly became my top choice. By the time I received an offer, I felt super relieved as it was the only dual MBA/MPH program I had applied to and was the direction I wanted to go. I think having a variety of experiences between various nonprofits and the military helped me to realize that becoming a provider wasn’t the only place that could offer me work that interests me.

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins Carey? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? 
I originally applied to Hopkins MSPH in Mental Health at JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health. When I saw the dual degree program, I thought it would be a decent fit. What stuck out about Hopkins is how unique the dual degree program is. The first thing I noticed was the emphasis placed on healthcare. For someone who’s spent their entire adult life working in health care, being in a program that understood my background and values was important.

Additionally, the fact that the two degrees are integrated and happening side by side was an exciting prospect. There were one or two other dual MBA/MPH programs that I thought I might apply to – looking back in time; I’m happy I fully committed to Hopkins early. From what I’ve seen, this program is the best fit for me, and I’m super thankful to be here.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2024?
I’m sure, like previous cohorts – the 2024 cohort comprises an exceptional and diverse group of people. My peers are interested in everything from traditional business spaces to nonprofit and social impact work. I think one of the things that I’ve noticed most is how passionate everyone is about having a positive impact on the world. Being around such a motivated group of people who want to create positive change is incredibly inspiring.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
This one is fun in retrospect, although it sometimes created hardships. I went to a very small high school (my graduating class was 7 people and the entire school K-12 was ~120). Switching from that environment to a large State University (each year ~10,000 freshmen students) for undergrad was insane. Throughout undergrad, there were definitely times when I had bad social anxiety, although I didn’t necessarily understand what it was. I say the story is fun now because any experience helps shape you, and coming out of that has undoubtedly impacted who I am today. As an adult, I can look back and laugh at how weird that transition period was.

Post-MBA career interests:
Great question! I’m open to advice on this. I’m partially kidding – my work in Special Forces has made me super interested in working in conflict environments and hard-to-reach areas. Conversations about global development work get me super excited. I also love helping people develop ideas and find working with young entrepreneurs very fulfilling. The last thing I’ll say is that my experiences in the military and gambling disorder research have made me very passionate about mental health. While I’m not entirely clear on the exact path I’ll take, I know I’ll never settle on something I’m not passionate about – it’s too uninteresting – so knowing what I enjoy and what I’m good at is a great place to start.  

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
More general advice than anything: I’ve always tried to pursue everything that stuck out as a cool opportunity. I’ve been a backpacking guide, traveled and worked extensively across Europe, learned Russian, developed health programs, and never stopped taking college classes. I also discovered that my dream job wasn’t as dreamy as I expected. Where I’m going with this is keep learning, keep following your passions, treat people well, help when you can, ask for help when you need it, make that phone call, pitch that idea. When you’re not learning from something or not excited about it anymore, drop it and pivot. You never know when the next thing that’s big and exciting in your life will happen. I think more than standardized tests or academic performance; I was probably a good candidate due to my background and experiences. If you curate rich experiences, people will naturally connect with some of them and it opens up so many doors. 

I use this metaphor sometimes – my desk has a million things on it all the time – all my ideas. They’re not always at the center. Sometimes they’re nearly falling off the end, but they usually make it back to center if I was ever excited about it. If you keep engaging in your interests all the time, stuff naturally connects at different points, the good ideas stick out, and the bad ones slowly disappear. If you relentlessly pursue your interests, someone else will almost certainly have a place for you, whether it’s a school or a job.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I wish I knew that an MBA/MPH program was the best choice for me a little earlier. It would’ve helped guide my process and removed some of the anxiety that had built up about transitioning from a mostly positive career in the military. It can be hard to know these things – what I’ve learned since coming back to school full-time is that informational calls to potential mentors or partners can help identify your true interests and passions. There are so many people with incredible experiences – some of the people I’ve expected the least out of in a conversation have been the most connectable and helped me understand myself the best. Be open-minded and humble – it’ll take you a super long way. 

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Let’s be honest – the GRE – I’ve never met someone who particularly enjoys standardized tests. Just grin and bear it. The process is the process, whether it’s good or bad. I spent several months studying and had to take it from home due to COVID– the online proctor system kept failing, and I would lose time on the test or get interrupted. Ultimately, it got me what I needed, and I’m no worse for wear. 

What is your initial impression of the Carey students/culture/community?
What I love about Carey is how much cross-over there is with the school of public health. When so many of your teachers hold positions at both schools, it boosts confidence that you’re learning from people with similar values, goals, and dreams. The diverse student body has been a particular highlight for me. I worked in a field with very few women and minimal cultural diversity (especially being in a European-specific position). The opportunity to engage with people with different experiences has been excellent. I learn so much from my peers in everyday conversations about life. 

What is one thing you have learned about Carey that has surprised you?
It’s been very different being in business school after studying anthropology in undergrad, doing a graduate certificate in public health, and then the summer semester in public health. My work experiences have left me with transferrable skills but were mostly with nonprofits and federal service – not exactly the business world. So as funny as it sounds – the most surprising thing about being at Carey is seeing how culturally different a business school is and how they talk about things like social impact through that lens. It’s not better or worse – just different. It’s a great place for me to be as someone in a transition period – learning how to think differently about these issues that I’ve learned about through social science lenses has been great. 

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
The hands-down hardest thing to overcome that drew the most amount of anxiety was how much my social behaviors shifted during COVID. At the start of the program in June, I felt like I needed to force myself out to see people. I didn’t want to engage with people a ton and was very much used to maintaining the COVID circle. I lived in Germany throughout the COVID experience. The German government held onto restrictions longer than many other places, so minimizing social situations slowly crept in as the new way of life. It’s been helpful talking about this with my peers and hearing that many of them felt the same way, especially early on. It’s been great (re)finding the social side of myself that wants to engage with new people (in person) and branch out of my comfort zone. 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
The most exciting thing is how amazing it feels not to have major work commitments. If anyone reads this that’s considering a career pivot but is nervous about going back to school – do it – there’s never a better time. It’s been an amazing breath of fresh air to focus inward on development and set aside work stressors. School comes with its own unique challenges, but it’s so much different. I’m very thankful to have a time in my thirties where I can slow down, reprioritize, focus on learning, and grow. 

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.