Military MBA’s: Learning to “Survive, Adapt and Overcome” in the Part Time MBA program

By Matthew Robinson, Part Time MBA student, Baltimore campus

I came to Maryland in 2010, about two months fresh out of Fort Bragg. I had a five-year hiatus from academia, and my recent endeavors had not been mentally rigorous. To call me rusty would have been a kind lie. The one thing I had going for me was a foundation of character to propel me through tough situations. I had served five years with the 37th Engineer Battalion, Combat Airborne. I spent a year in Afghanistan and endured its frigid mountain winter.

These experiences gave me fortitude, and I believed I could hit the ground running by signing up for 17 credits; Chemistry for Engineers, Calculus 1, and a handful of other classes. After the first month of classes, I’ll admit that I was overwhelmed. I recognized many of my friends in the Part Time MBA Program started out the same way. A common mantra by many military personnel is Survive, Adapt, Overcome. The tricks I learned as an undergrad were incredibly helpful to me completing my Civil Engineering Bachelor’s degree, my subsequent Masters, and the Part Time MBA Program I am enrolled in today.

If I can do it, so can you.

Terp Vets and Smith Vets

Without a doubt, Terp Vets is the first organization I recommend to any new vet on campus. They have a private lounge at Cole, often loaded with coffee and snacks. Members are social, but the lounge tends to stay decently quiet in case you need to focus down. The group also organizes social events for veterans, like ski trips and whitewater rafting, as well as local happy hours and bowling events. Their email list keeps you in the loop for big news, like campus wide events, Veteran STEM tutoring sessions, and exclusive veteran scholarships. Lastly, they have some of the free best swag on campus. Terp Vets shirts are nice!

Smith Vets are a special sub section of Terp Vets, exclusive to the Smith School. Due to the Smith School’s massive reach, there are actually many more veterans in the Smith School than one would expect at first glance. In addition to the Full Time and Part Time MBA students, there are also Online MBA and Executive MBA students. Our proximity to the many military installations in the DMV area brings a large swath of vets to the MBA program at UMD. Reach out and connect, there is a big network out there very willing to help.

The Benefit of Study Groups

Almost ever major department and college has a peer led group of tutors. Simply stated, if it wasn’t for professors and TA’s helping out the physics study groups in the off hours, I wouldn’t have passed. Period. These people volunteer their time whether people show up or not. They have one purpose, help you figure out how to do your homework. There is no shame in being poor at math or not understanding a concept. If you need help with math or writing during your time at Maryland, there are multiple programs available to help. There are professors who help edit your papers, and TA’s who teach you how to solve a system of equations. If you need help, ask.

Easy Access to Washington, DC

Only 30 minutes away from College Park by metro or car, our Nation’s Capital is in the University’s backyard, and it is rich with resources for veterans. Culturally, the city is filled with anything a person could crave, be it food, drink, art, or entertainment. There are theaters, comedy clubs, Michelin star restaurants and legendary dive bars. If you need a job, Veteran Preference gives you a leg up on the competition, and DC is home to more than a few federal agencies. Lastly, there is no shortage of events with veteran discounts in DC. Check with Terp Vets for deals and sometimes free tickets to Nats and Caps games. DC is the center of the universe, it has everything. While you’re here, take advantage of it.

Three Part Time MBA Campuses

Everybody has a subject or two that they find difficult to master. I’ve always believed that repetition is key to learning. Many classes have sister sections at the other Part Time MBA campuses (Baltimore, Rockville, and Washington, DC). If you’re geographically halfway between two, consider spending your free night at another campus. Often, there is an open seat in the classroom, so ask your professor if you can get some extra exposure to the content by sitting in. I have never once heard a professor at Maryland turn down a student showing a genuine desire to learn. Also, travelling to the different Part Time MBA campuses can be a great way to network between cohorts, which can introduce you to fellow vets and people interested in similar topics. It is quite common for students to travel to other campuses in the course of their MBA program in order to take a class not offered at their home campus. Might as well get familiar early.

Libraries On and Around Campus

The University has many libraries. There are over 20 libraries at the College Park campus, and the Part Time MBA campuses either have a library or access to one within a short distance. For example, the Baltimore campus has Maryland’s Law School Library and Public Health Library across the street. In DC, they have the Library of Congress. In Rockville, the Universities of Shady Grove has a library available in Building 3.

The University is linked to all the libraries in the University System of Maryland, even some outside of the State of Maryland. If you’re able to take advantage of Club McKeldin on main campus, this is a gold mine for studying and group projects. All the libraries have quiet floors, some have less than quiet floors for groups. Obviously, they have computers, and they have books, but they also have textbooks. Often, a professor recommends but does not require a textbook. If you’re lucky, you can buy a text two versions older on Amazon for about $20. But sometimes you can just go to the library and check out a course reserve copy of the new textbook version. They won’t let you borrow the book for the semester, but you can photo copy the readings, and save yourself $200.

Pay It Forward

I try to stay as involved as I can with student veteran programs like Terp Vets and PAVE. It’s not much, but it’s a community that I want to be a part of, a community I strongly identify with. They run a Facebook group that I’ve kept tabs on over the years, and I’ve been able to assist more than a handful over the years. With PAVE, I keep up a comms check, ask how people are doing, and offer assistance to those who need it. For veterans, service means a little something more, and it pays to help out your battle buddy. You never know just how they’ll repay the favor.


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