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Darden Military Association Helps B-School Vets Transition, Thrive

By Maggie Dodson-
darden-military-association

Veterans of U.S. and foreign militaries comprise between 7 and 9 percent of Darden’s full-time MBA classes. These military students are an important part of the broader Darden community, and are known for contributing their leadership, discipline and decision-making skills and teamwork to the classroom. Darden’s academic intensity — combined with the case method approach — refines and refocuses the judgment and decision-making honed in military training.

Just one of Darden’s many student-run organizations, the Darden Military Association (DMA) serves its members by leveraging military experience to enhance career opportunities in the private sector and build a tightknit network among its members.

Interested in learning more about DMA and the Darden experience from a military perspective? Listen to our recent webinar, Military to MBA hosted by DMA board members, current students and Senior Associate Director of Admissions Cheryl Jones.

A few of the DMA board members shared insights about their own experiences and advice for prospective students — but listen to the online session attend to gain even more insights!

Tommy Rose, DMA President:

Q: What was your background before coming to Darden?
A: I was a surface warfare officer onboard guided-missile destroyers and also served in a strategy and policy role at the Pentagon during my navy career.

Q: Why did you choose b-school, and/or Darden specifically?
A: I wanted to pivot into the technology sector and believed that acquiring more business acumen and skills through the case study method at Darden would provide me opportunities that would not be available directly out of the Navy. At the same time, the Post 9/11 GI Bill has made this opportunity

Tommy Rose, DMA President

affordable, and I wanted to take advantage of these benefits directly after leaving the Navy.

Q: What are you passionate about?
A: I love college football and basketball. There’s nothing more exciting than cutting loose with some friends and tailgating for a fall college football game. Aside from sports, I have a professional passion for both technology and education. More specifically, I am an advocate for seeking ways to lower the cost of education in order to make it more accessible and equitable in the U.S.

Photo shared by Tommy Rose

Q: Why is the Darden Military Association important you?
A: Because of our shared experiences, the DMA has been a fantastic group of people to make new friends and seek professional assistance during my time at Darden. I also understand how difficult the journey is to pivot from military life to starting a new career, and I want to work together and give back to veterans who are seeking to better themselves and their families during this journey.

Q: Advice for prospective students who are considering transitioning from public to private sector?
A: Never question whether you have the right experience or skills to make a successful transition. Your military experience is invaluable and you should pursue the roles and careers opportunities that you are passionate about. Additionally, the Darden network is powerful, but I believe the veteran network is even stronger. Take advantage of this during your own transition process.


Mark Pohl, DMA VP of Admissions

Q: What was your background before coming to Darden?
A: I was an Army Engineer Officer for 6 years. I was with the 101st Airborne Division for almost four years. I served as a route clearance Platoon Leader in Afghanistan and served as a company executive officer and staff officer after my return. My last role had me teaching new engineer lieutenants demolitions and dismounted patrolling for almost 2 years.

Q: Why did you choose to come to b-school, and/or Darden specifically?
A: While still in the Army I was studying for the professional engineering exam and realized very quickly that I did not want to be a civilian engineer. I realized I wanted to work with people and build teams in business. Not having a business background, Darden and an MBA provided a high-quality education that would give me the skills and network to be successful.

Photo shared by Mark Pohl

Q: What are you passionate about?
A: I love learning new things and how things work. For example, I recently taught myself how to change the break pads and rotors on my car. For me the first year Darden core curriculum was an intense experience of learning how the world works every day. Whether it was macroeconomics, marketing, or finance I was able to see how it all impacted my daily life. It opened my eyes to a world outside the Army and I have loved every minute of it.

Q: Why is the Darden Military Association important you?
A: Leaving the Army immediately before Darden was a large change. The DMA provided an awesome group of people who were going through or have gone through a similar transition. It was a great way to enjoy the company of people with similar backgrounds that can help each other through a new experience. There is never a dull moment when spending time with the DMA.

Q: Advice for prospective students who are considering transitioning from public to private sector?
A: Do your research to determine what you want to do. Network with as many people as your can and ask questions about what they do. Additionally, do some serious soul searching about what type of job, company, industry, and lifestyle you want. Rushing into recruiting without understanding what types of roles you want is a dangerous game. Find what you want and go after it. You have the experience and ability to get any job you want.


Brandon Sims, DMA Executive Vice President

Q: What was your background before coming to Darden?
A: U.S. Marine Corps Infantry Officer. My first deployment was to Darwin, NT, Australia and my second was the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit with time in Okinawa, Thailand, and South Korea. I ended my career running enlisted recruiting out of Fort Worth, Texas.

Q: Why did you choose to come to b-school, and/or Darden specifically?
A: Business school would allow me to spend some time focusing on myself and learning some of the hard skills required of general managers. I wanted a toolkit that would make me competitive across a variety of industries and functions. Darden met those needs for me through its intensive core curriculum offering and case method. Also, Charlottesville and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains are hard to beat.

Photo shared by Brandon Sims

Q: What are you passionate about?
A: Decisive, responsible, and humble leadership. It is hard to hit all three, but striving to display those gives me satisfaction at the end of the day. Lately and more specifically, I’ve developed an interest in water quality solutions and protecting this resource. And personally, I enjoy fly fishing and sketching.

Q: Why is the Darden Military Association important you?
A: The strength of the Darden network really has delivered on its promises. The nested DMA network even more so. I think the veterans that Darden attracts are those that want to assimilate to the corporate world while still highly-valuing the bonds forged by military service. The events, happy hours, and exclusive networking opportunities the DMA provides are perfect examples of the formal and informal closeness of the group.

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