Darden Military Alumni

The following Darden alumni welcome your questions about resources for military students at Darden or about the transition from the military to business school life: 

Michael Wilcheck

U.S. Navy
Class of 2011
Employment: Credit Suisse

"Leaving the Navy after seven years as a submarine officer was easily the most difficult decision I have ever made. The camaraderie, operations, challenges and leadership opportunities are impossible to duplicate, so when I was looking at business schools, I sought an environment which I felt could come as close as possible to those qualities which I found so appealing during my time in service. In Darden, I found all of them.

In my first interaction with the School, it was clear that Darden both valued and understood military service and truly welcomed veterans into the community. Staff, faculty and Second Year students alike offered their support and assistance in any way I needed. The Darden Military Association (DMA) quickly welcomed us and organized an informal gathering so that we could put names and faces together. However, the DMA is much more than a loose confederation of veterans. We are an extremely active club, holding numerous social and professional gatherings and continuing the fine tradition of service through philanthropic events such as the Toys for Tots Campaign and Building Goodness in April. Additionally, we are planning to initiate an annual fundraiser for the Children of Fallen Patriots, a charitable organization which seeks to provide college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in combat or accidents.

Darden’s classroom experience is truly unique. The case method is a fast-paced, challenging and dynamic learning environment rooted in real-world experiences — an environment where our military backgrounds are an asset in classroom discussion. It offers a forum where veterans have the opportunity to share valuable leadership lessons with classmates who might not have had similar experiences and similarly allows veterans to learn from their civilian counterparts whose experiences are different, but equally valuable, from our own. Because of this strong leadership presence, veterans are highly valued and respected by the faculty.

Darden is also more than clubs and degree; it is an experience in people that will remain with you for the rest of your life. There is no better testament to this than the strong bond that the School has with its alumni base, whom I have found to routinely go above and beyond on behalf of current students. Whether it be a simple networking call or connecting you to a non-publicized opportunity at a competitor, Darden alumni constantly show how much they care about students and the School’s brand — a benefit that no ranking can ever fully capture. There truly is no other place I can imagine spending two years in pursuit of an MBA.

If you have any questions about the School or would like to visit a class, please feel free to contact me."

Dan Burton

U.S. Army
Darden Class of 201
Employment: Credit Suisse

"As I navigated the business school admissions process I spoke with a number of military veterans at Darden about what the Darden First Year experience was really like. The common theme that I took away from these conversations was what a challenging, yet supportive environment Darden provides for former military students. Darden affords students with military backgrounds the opportunity to quickly hone their business acumen through the rigor of the case method while leveraging the knowledge and experience of their classmates with more traditional business backgrounds. Beyond the classroom, I could not have been more impressed with the level of support that the Admissions Office provided me throughout the entire admissions process and is the reason that I wanted to serve as the Vice President for Admissions of the DMA. I hope to be able to provide the same level of support to prospective former military applicants that I received, so please do not to hesitate to contact with any questions or concerns at any time."

Michael Freed

U.S. Navy
Darden Class of 2010

"It was an extremely difficult decision for me to get out of the Navy after 10 years as a submarine officer. I loved the camaraderie, family environment, challenges, and fulfillment commiserate with a life of service. When I was looking for a business school, I found that Darden stood out as an environment where I would experience many of the qualities that made me love my time in the Navy.

Immediately after arriving on Grounds, it was clear that Darden valued my military service. The Military Association has a strong membership and instantly makes new members feel at home with people that have similar life experiences. Countless Second Years offer unconditional support for both the transition into Darden and in the recruiting process for summer internships. We are an extremely active organization both on and off Grounds and continue a fine tradition of volunteering in the community and with programs such as the Toys for Tots campaign. This year we are planning a large philanthropic event for a veteran-related charity.

The classroom environment at Darden is one of a kind. The case method is an interactive, challenging, and exceptionally dynamic learning environment. Particularly applicable to veterans, it is rooted in real world lessons and experiences — making our military backgrounds an asset in daily discussions. The case method provides veterans with an opportunity to share valuable leadership lessons with classmates who might not have had similar experiences managing large numbers of people. Because of this strong leadership presence, veterans are highly valued and respected by the faculty.

People told me that Darden was a special place with a familial environment. I thought the strong words from alumni and friends were too good to be true. However, it has lived up to the reputation on every front, and I am grateful that I chose Darden. It really is the best place for any military officer to take their career to the next level.

If you have any questions about the school or would like to visit a class, please feel free to contact me."

Bill Boucek

U.S. Navy
Darden Class of 2009

"It is difficult to pick an area to begin when speaking about Darden and my experience. The faculty, the students, the Grounds, the overall classroom environment...they are all first class.

Like many of you, when I was selecting an MBA program, I visited many schools and sat in on many classes. When I visited Darden it was an immediate fit and I knew that this was where I needed to get an MBA. Observing a class, I was drawn in by the case study method. I knew that this style of learning through immersion, discussion and debate was the best way to learn and more likely to hold my interest than traditional lecture-based teaching.

During the First Year, I found that my military experience was a great asset both in and out of the classroom. The ability to manage time effectively and speak confidently in a group setting has been a tremendous help when dealing with the rigorous academic schedule and the demands of the case study method.

Being a member of the Darden Military Association has also been a very rewarding experience. We have an incredible group of military veterans, helpful faculty advisors, and a robust alumni network that are always ready to help or give advice. We are active both on and off grounds through events like our leadership speaker series, Toys for Tots campaign, and various other volunteer opportunities.

If you are interested in an MBA, I invite you to visit Darden and to reach out to any of our students, faculty, or to the Darden Military Association. I am confident you will discover that Darden is the best opportunity for you to build on you leadership experience in the military and to gain the tools you will need in the corporate world. Darden is truly the right fit for any military officer looking to take their career to the next level."

John McNamara

Darden Class of 2009

"The decision to come to Darden over other MBA programs was very easy for me. The teachers are world class, the case study method is a practical method to develop the skills I need to succeed and there is a strong military-friendly environment.

I am extremely impressed with Darden’s teaching faculty, who go above and beyond to create an environment that promotes collaboration between students and professors. The teachers are accessible outside of the classroom in order to ensure that I have grasped the concepts. Furthermore, the incredible diversity of the Darden Community enables students to have a richer learning experience through working with people from a variety of backgrounds.

Through the Darden case method, I am exposed to a variety of actual business situations and am challenged to make tough decisions that I have to discuss and defend in the classroom. The environment allows military members to grow their skill sets from commanding personnel to influencing and convincing peers of your point of view.

The Darden Military Association has a strong presence on Grounds, and the members’ experiences are well respected in the community. We have established a strong mentoring program in which Second Year members can pass on what they have learned about how to effectively highlight their military experience in a networking environment, a resume or in an interview. Our speaker series also gives members exposure to successful alumni with military backgrounds who provide valuable insights on making the transition from the military to the business world. I find the DMA to be a close-knit group of individuals who are always ready to give advice or share ideas to help each other."

Bridget Walsh

U.S. Navy
Darden Class of 2008

"I chose to attend Darden because the community here truly values my experience as a military officer. My military experience prepared me immeasurably for the challenging learning environment found at Darden. I have built on my leadership experience in the Navy and bridged the gap between the military and corporate world. My experience working with individuals from a multitude of backgrounds, combined with the diverse environment at Darden has helped me maintain an international perspective. I have found a tight-knit community that respects each and every student, and the case method has been instrumental in my learning experience.

The Darden Military Association has also been extremely helpful in my transition, providing resume help, mock interviews and more. Our breakfast series has given me the opportunity to meet with Veteran alumni, including the CEOs of multinational corporations.

Darden is truly the right fit for any military officer looking to take their career to the next level."

Luke Grant

U.S. Navy
Darden Class of 2008

"I recall at the beginning of my first tour as a Naval Surface Warfare Officer that it took several months to learn how the various departments on my ship functioned together to accomplish the ship’s mission. During that time I found it difficult to make solid managerial decisions without a complete understanding of how those decisions would impact the rest of the organization. From this experience I realized that in order to be an effective business leader early on in my career I would similarly need to gain experience making decisions in a business environment. The Darden case method has afforded me that opportunity by exposing me to a variety of actual business situations and challenging me to make tough decisions that I discuss and defend in the classroom.

The decision to come to Darden over other MBA programs was very easy for me. The facilities at Darden are first class and provide the perfect setting for a quality education. I was also extremely impressed with Darden’s world-class faculty members, who go above and beyond to create an environment that promotes collaboration between students and professors. Furthermore, the Darden Community is incredibly diverse, which enables students to have a richer learning experience through working with people from a variety of backgrounds.

During my First Year, I found that my military experience was a great asset both in and out of the classroom. My ability to manage time effectively and speak confidently in a group setting helped me to succeed academically. My leadership experience was also valued by my professors and fellow students. On many occasions others have looked to me to lead in small group settings or to provide insights on the challenges of being a leader in a structured environment.

Being a member of the Darden Military Association opened many doors for me throughout the job search process. I found the DMA to be a close-knit group of individuals who are always ready to give advice or share ideas about succeeding as former or active members of the military."

Mac Russell

U.S. Navy
Darden Class of 2007

"Two years ago, I became one of the select few Navy Supply Officers selected to a fully sponsored MBA program. As a leader and Navy business manager, I wanted a school that not only valued my military experience, but allowed me to leverage those experiences in the learning process.

In my search, Darden quickly became the clear choice as a perfect fit for me and my needs. Its case method style with student-driven discussions on actual, real-world cases would allow me to use my own experiences to contribute to the learning environment. It also became apparent to me that what I would learn at Darden would have practical applications in both the Navy and business world environment. This was evident by the fact that for the past 27 years, the Navy has relied on Darden’s Business Resource Management (BRM) program to assist in developing a small group of the Navy’s junior Supply Officers through an internship program that brings them from all over the globe to Darden for five weeks every January. Finally, through talking with students and alumni, I found that Darden fostered a very tight-knit community through social functions and programs. I felt that Darden would replicate the same esprit de corps that I had enjoyed and felt contributed to the success I had experienced in my career.

Darden has certainly exceeded my expectations. I have been able to apply my own experience to the learning environment; more importantly, though, my own learning has been greatly impacted by the experiences of my classmates. What I’ve learned in class and the experiences I have gained are not only applicable in the corporate business world, but very practical in the Navy’s business settings. I have also been extremely impressed with the Darden Community, and the small class size allows students to be a part of the learning process, not just a face in the crowd. The faculty’s openness and easy accessibility are simply amazing and most certainly unmatched. The alumni’s continued involvement with students and the School also signify the strong sense of community felt on Grounds. I never imagined that I would have immediate access to some the world’s top business leaders and that they would be so approachable to Darden students.

This coming year the Darden Military Association will take major steps in helping Darden’s military students. In order to prepare our First Year military leaders for company interviews and resume drops, we have designated four Second Year DMA members as career specialists who will offer assistance in reviewing First Year resumes and providing guidance on transforming military successes into business world triumphs. The Alumni Database was also recently updated with a tool that will identify Darden’s veterans. Now our military students will be able to use our veteran alumni as resources as we progress through our Darden experience and transition from military to business life. Additionally, the DMA will start a Speaker Series with the intent of bringing in veteran alumni and alumni with close ties to the military to speak to the club on transition issues and career opportunities and provide networking opportunities for DMA members. I am pleased to announce that Mr. Strangfeld will kick off the series in September and will be followed by Mr. Steve Reinemund, CEO of PEPSICO, in October."

Jeff Kappler

Marine Corps
Darden Class of 2007

"The Darden classroom relies on having a variety of students with a variety of experiences who can offer a range of ways to solve problems. The military places an enormous amount of responsibility and trust in junior officers. The experiences that come with this responsibility are extremely valuable in classroom and team discussions. The military perspective adds value to all classes, but the experiences are particularly valuable in leadership, organizational behavior, ethics and management communication areas.

The academic requirements of the First Year program suited my learning style. I enjoyed working hard with friends as we taught and helped each other throughout the year. The course work is challenging, but manageable, especially with good time management skills and the ability to prioritize multiple tasks. My military training and operational experiences prepared me for the intensity of the course work.

Darden was the perfect fit for me because of its team-oriented, case method approach to learning. I wanted to be part of a community similar to the military where integrity, hard work, teamwork and discipline are valued. I found this at Darden."

William Donaldson

Marine Corps
Darden Class of 2006

"Military experience prepares you to be successful in business school, and in the larger business world, in many ways. For example, the Marine Corps taught me how to interpret strategic intent in order to develop practical and effective operational plans. Communicating this intent throughout your organization enables front-line leaders to independently capitalize on opportunities as they become available. This is an extraordinarily valuable skill that is germane to both the military and the business world as it promotes a nimble and responsive organization.

When I left the military, I wanted to find an occupation where I felt the same sense of purpose and devotion to duty that I experienced while on active duty. I further sought out programs that put a special emphasis on integrity and ethical decision making. Darden has surpassed my expectations in all regards. I have been introduced to a myriad of opportunities that fit the bill, and I am excited to pursue them after graduation.

As I was deciding on a business school, I looked for a place that sought to develop leaders through practical application of real-world problems using the case study method. I also wanted to find a close-knit community reminiscent of the esprit de corps and camaraderie that I valued so much in military service. Darden's focus on the practical application of experience through case studies and ethical decision making coupled with its renowned rigorous program made it the perfect place for me."

Ken Heckel

U.S. Army
Darden Class of 2006

"The emphasis on discipline in the military prepared me for the 'MBA Boot Camp' experience of Darden's First Year program. The intense course load and aggressive learning were easier for me to manage, since I had experience operating under very stressful conditions in the military. The military also emphasizes teamwork and respect, which are two important tenets of the Darden experience.

After looking at various business schools, I chose Darden because of its emphasis on leadership, its commitment to the enterprise perspective, and its focus on ethics in decision-making. I think those facets of the program are a good fit for most students with a military background.

Darden is unique in its approach to learning, using the case pedagogy method and the learning team framework to foster a team-oriented learning environment. The reliance on your learning team is very similar to the way the military operates in small groups — squads, platoons, and teams — that work together to reach one goal. The goal of the learning team at Darden is to share individual perspectives on the material in order to enhance learning. A secondary goal is to leverage the skills and experiences of each member of the team to create a positive learning environment — something that the military does very well in order to ensure it accomplishes its missions.

Darden also encourages students to take the enterprise perspective and think of the impacts of one decision on the entire company or business. This is similar to the way military officers are asked to think. We understand that decisions are not made in a vacuum and it is critical to think about all impacts of the decision on the entire organization. Therefore, Darden's focus on the enterprise perspective is a natural fit.

I also appreciate the fact that case discussions at Darden always have one underlying theme — ethics. Whether the business issue is related to accounting, finance, or marketing, the ethical foundations of the decision are always considered. Taking the best course of action is not solely determined by the financial profitability, but also by the impact it will have on the ethical foundation of the company."

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