Student Spotlight: As a Veteran with a DC Assignment, Smith’s Part Time MBA Program was the Right Fit!

By: Chris Beckwith, Part Time MBA ‘20

If you are a military service member or veteran currently assigned to the nation’s capital for at least two years: Congratulations, you now have a golden ticket opportunity to earn your MBA at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business!

This was the setting exactly one year ago for my wife Sarah and I as dual-military Army Aviation officers approaching the 10-year mark of our careers. Sarah was leaving active duty to pursue her Full Time MBA and join the private sector, while I was on orders to the Pentagon and planning to continue active duty service. As dual-working professionals, we both understood the value of a high-quality business education to maximize our competitive advantage and prepare for life post-military service. Unfortunately, most veterans in the post-9/11 era can attest to the military’s demanding operational tempo, which may not afford service members the opportunity to individually pursue graduate school or an MBA.

I was personally inspired by the Smith School’s outreach during Sarah’s Full Time MBA Program search in the D.C. area. We visited multiple campuses and spoke at length to recruiters and advisors, and we were both struck by the unmatched enthusiasm and warm reception from the Smith School. Smith’s Military and Veteran’s Affairs office was very supportive, and integral to Sarah’s application process. I quickly discovered that my MBA goal was attainable, and the Smith School of Business Part Time MBA Program was a no-brainer.

Although many business schools offer excellent online degree programs (University of Maryland is no exception), I personally prefer the pedagogy of a brick-and-mortar classroom environment. Since I’m working full-time at the Pentagon, I had three major decision criteria for an MBA: flexibility, quality of education, and affordability. The Smith Part Time MBA Program has all three in spades.

The Smith Part Time MBA Program is inherently flexible and can be tailored to the demands of working professionals. Traditionally scoped as a 28-month program, the Part Time MBA Program can be accelerated to 24-months (my current schedule) or extended to 36-months or longer. The D.C. campus at the Ronald Reagan Federal building is located directly on the Federal Triangle Metro stop and extremely accessible. Commuting to classes was a concern for me, but I find it very manageable during the evening rush-hour. The Smith School professors also understand their students are working full-time, and they go above and beyond to accommodate our professional obligations.

With regards to quality, the Smith School Part Time MBA Program is not only the #15 nationally-ranked program but offers a competitive advantage: quantitative and analytical curriculum. Success in today’s business environment requires leaders trained to make informed, data-driven decisions. The Part Time MBA Program heavily emphasizes quantitative and analytical aspects of business, and I find the curriculum immediately applicable in both public and private sectors.

Sarah and I are in a unique position to compare and contrast the Full Time and Part Time programs at Smith. Our consensus: they’re very similar. Most of my Part Time professors teach the exact same class in the Full Time program. This means Part Time MBA students enjoy the same high-quality education as a Full Time MBA, albeit in evening format.  

This brings me to cost: I didn’t want to take-on significant school debt to complete my degree.  Fortunately, the University of Maryland offers in-state tuition rate for all classes taken at the D.C., Baltimore and Rockville campuses. Combined with the Post-9/11 GI Bill at my time in service, this essentially made my Smith School Part Time MBA a no-cost degree. The Smith School’s Military and Veterans Affairs office was enormously helpful in navigating the VA financial aid process for first-time users like Sarah and I. They can assist you in finding the best financial aid solutions for your individual situation.

If you’re interested in pursuing a graduate degree, the D.C. region is a mecca for graduate programs of all flavors. There are a multitude of nationally-ranked universities here to further your personal or professional goals while balancing a full-time assignment. Regardless of your composition (Active Duty, Reservist or National Guardsmen), I strongly encourage any veteran to take full advantage of your time here and pursue your higher education goals. You may not see this level of career stability and predictability again down the road.

And if you’re in the market for a Part Time MBA, I recommend giving the Smith School Part Time MBA Program a look… you’ll be hard pressed to find a higher value proposition and return on investment.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position, nor constitute endorsement, of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or any other organization.

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