In recognition of Veterans Day, we are thrilled to feature Andrew Kalna (Class of 2021) of the Darden Military Association on the blog today. After commissioning as an Army officer, Andrew attended dive school and specialized in underwater construction and high-risk diving operations.
Students with military experience make up between seven and nine percent of the incoming class at Darden each year. Our military students are commended for their leadership, discipline, teamwork and decision-making skills — contributing to the rich diversity and discussions in the classroom. Learn more about Darden’s military community.
Q: Tell us a little about your background and military experience pre-Darden.
A: I started my career as a highway engineer with the U.S. Department of Transportation. I worked on planning, designing and building major infrastructure projects in Arizona and Colorado. Although I enjoyed the work, I felt called to continue my family’s legacy of military service and wanted to get direct leadership experience. After commissioning as an Army officer, I attended dive school and specialized in underwater construction, search and recovery and high-risk diving operations. I served in a variety of leadership positions; however, my favorite role was leading an engineer dive detachment. During this role, I led several complex construction projects and partnered with numerous allied foreign militaries, this included a deployment to Kuwait where we collaborated with Kuwaiti military to conduct a high-priority search and recovery operation.
Q: What led you to pursue an MBA?
A: When I decided to pursue a managerial challenge outside of the military, I knew I wanted to hone my technical business skills. The case method and curriculum at Darden push you to become a more analytical thinker and to make decisions with ambiguous information. These skills are critical in business and I chose Darden because I knew the curriculum would prepare me well for a general management role. Additionally, my family wanted to participate in the MBA experience as well — and the Darden community and Charlottesville were more inclusive and welcoming than any other program. I knew Darden was the best fit for my professional aspiration and for the overall family experience.
Q: What is the Darden Military Association?
A: The Darden Military Association (DMA) helps support veterans as they make the transition from active duty to Darden and into a new career. The group excels at helping one another leverage their military skills and leadership experiences in their desired career field. The DMA also meets and advises prospective students while fostering a diverse and welcoming community at Darden.
Q: Why did you decide to get involved with DMA?
A: I decided to join the DMA to give back to the Darden community. The DMA was instrumental in my decision to attend Darden and they were incredibly helpful during the admissions process. I wanted to “pay it forward” to prospective veterans and to contribute to a vibrant community. I’m really proud of the September 11th memorial workout we held. The DMA offered an incredible workout and early morning reflection on ordinary heroes like the Man in the Red Bandana. Remembering the fallen and these heroes is critical for ourselves and future generations.
Q: How does DMA support the greater Darden community?
A: The DMA supports admissions activities and almost any event at Darden. We are incredibly supportive of veterans who want to pursue higher education — at Darden or another school that fits them best. The DMA is always willing to support the community when asked; they are the most selfless group I’ve met!
Q: What advice can you share for prospective students?
A: Visit! Take the time to visit schools so you can see the culture in action. Fit at school or in a job is usually undervalued. The best way to know where you will be successful is to experience the culture. We look forward to seeing you on Grounds here at Darden!