This Veterans Day, the Booth community salutes those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. With a staggering number of 1,100+ alumni in this group, Chicago Booth draws the attention of veterans interested in a transformative journey into the business realm. Subsequently, one of the most tight-knit groups on campus is the Armed Forces Group (AFG), home to dozens of U.S. and international veterans who differ in pathways, but share a common denominator of serving their respective countries.
With unique leadership experiences, veterans bring a rich perspective to Booth that is highly respected by faculty and peers alike. Today, we give the spotlight to Booth’s female veterans, the heroes of our community. Through their stories, we can learn about veterans’ motivations and about Booth as a facilitator of camaraderie and personal growth, which is irrespective of military service.
Katie Wurzbach (United States Army, AFG Co-Chair, Class of ’17), Audrey Lancaster (United States Army, Class of ’17) and Sarah Owen (Marine Corps, Class of ’18) – We thank you for your service… The stage is all yours!
TBE: Why was it important for you to serve your country?
Katie: My father served in the Army, and I grew up in a military family my entire life; service was a very nature concept in our house. I never felt pressure from my family to serve in the military, but it was something that I wanted to do from the age of 8. I felt a desire to give back to our country, and to serve in harm’s way, if necessary, so that others wouldn’t have to. I also wanted to be challenged as a leader, and live a life of adventure—I’d say that I got more than I bargained for while serving, but I don’t regret one day I spent in uniform, and I often miss it!
Audrey: As cliché as it might sound, I wanted to be a part of something bigger than the environment I currently knew and support a mission I could be proud of. I wanted to give back to a country that has done so much for me and I fell in love with the camaraderie and team environment.
Sarah: I believe in the existence of evil, and I believe that—if you’re strong enough—it is your moral responsibility to act. For me, that meant something in security or defense.
TBE: Why are you here and not somewhere else?
Katie: I knew I wanted to move into the private sector following my military service, and earning an MBA seemed to be an excellent way to transition while sharpening my business acumen. I visited several campuses and met / corresponded with students as I progressed through the application cycle, but Booth stood out quickly. The community, and how friendly and giving they were, was something special and I truly felt “at home” when I visited.
Audrey: As I contemplated what career goals I had for myself after serving in the military, I knew the right decision for me was to further my business education. I chose Booth because of the flexible curriculum and ability to choose classes that would help me develop specific skills that I needed to be successful. Attending business school immediately after my service eased the transition between the military chapter and business chapter of my life.
Sarah: I will forever treasure my time in the Marine Corps, but after my service I was ready for a new challenge. I wanted to maximize my potential for good, and maximize how I could most impact the local community… For me that was through the mechanism of business. Booth is a phenomenal school, and the best path for achieving that goal.
TBE: What do you like most about Booth’s veteran community?
Katie: The AFG has felt like a tight-knit family during my time at Booth. Even before I was officially a student, I felt a camaraderie and closeness very similar to that which I was leaving behind in the Army. Some of my best friends at Booth are members of the AFG, and it has provided a support structure, not only for school specific issues, but for the transition as a whole. There is always an AFG member willing to help or provide guidance, and that friendship/assistance starts as soon as you’re interested in Booth, and continues after graduation.
Audrey: The veteran community was the first thing that initially attracted me to Booth. As I was going through the application process, I reached out to the veterans group and immediately received a response. They were extremely helpful throughout the process; willing to share their experiences at Booth, assist me in refining my resume, and meet me for lunch on campus when I came to visit. What I like most about the veteran group is they truly do have the pay-it-forward mentality, and you already feel like a member of the group before you even come to campus for school in the fall.
Sarah: The Booth Armed Forces Group is passionately committed to the success of each and every one of its members. The support and loyalty I received from AFG throughout my entire application process up until today has been incredibly humbling (and I’m extremely grateful!). We are a family, committed to one another, as well as to the greater Booth family. Plus, these guys know how to party!
TBE: What is your advice for veterans transitioning to a Booth MBA and beyond?
Katie: Reach out through the military network to learn more about the school/career you are interested in; ideally, find someone that is where you would like to be in 3-5 years. Whether it is people you personally know, or it’s a “cold” e-mail/LinkedIn message, don’t be afraid to ask for advice and for people’s perspectives. Finding a great fit culturally, for both school and your career field, is important, and the only way to figure that out is through research, both primary and secondary.
Audrey: Don’t undervalue your military experience. Booth has a very diverse community with a culture of openness and shared experiences. Not only will you learn a lot from your peers, but they will gain knowledge and benefit learning from your unique experiences as well.
Sarah: I would tell them to take the military warrior ethos and marry it to Booth’s qualitative academics and dynamic network, to create a synergy that will add value to any and every business model. Basically (in non-business school lingo): use what you gained from your service and let it guide you, and don’t be intimidated by the new environment that you’ll be operating in.
Hear from more women at Booth this Wednesday by joining the Booth Women Connect Live Chat.
Victoria Yunger is a first-year at Chicago Booth and an Israeli Ministry of Defense veteran who describes herself as “fashion blogger turned digital marketer, with a knack for details and long sentences.” She was featured in Poet and Quants’ Class of 2018 and is a guest blogger for The Booth Experience.