In honor of Veterans Day this year, The Booth Experience interviewed two women in the Armed Forces Group (AFG), Kate Constantakis and Katie Pelkey. We thank them, and the other 115 Booth veterans for their service!
The Armed Forces Group is composed of men and women who come from various branches of the military both in the US and abroad. The group is united by a common background in service and holds events for members and their partners and families, connects with prospective students, and is a gateway to other Veterans in MBA programs around the country. Read below about the experiences of two of our second year veteran women!
Why did you join the service and what were some of the highlights during your tenure?
Kate Constantakis: I grew up in Northville, Michigan where a high school mentor of mine inspired me to enter a career in the service. I was inspired by the opportunity to give back to the community and leadership roles available. Kate went on to the Naval Academy where she studied political science. She joined the US Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer where she worked for five years across various responsibilities. Some of her assignments included an eight month deployment in the Middle East and South China Sea, managing 20 sailors while leading the weapons systems, and running a training squadron over seven ships. One of the most fulfilling assignments was a humanitarian aid exercise where she worked with militaries, governments and NGOs on natural disaster relief in Malaysia and Thailand, while collaborating with their Armed Forces in the Pacific.
Katie Pelkey: I originally studied business in my undergrad and was working in sales when I was drawn to a career switch into public service. I came across an opportunity in the Coast Guard and was inspired by the chance to give back to the community. I did many roles in the Coast Guard, but eventually was selected for Naval Flight School eventually becoming a helicopter pilot. I spent five years as a search and rescue pilot flying into extreme conditions to save lives. Eventually I became an instructor pilot and taught junior pilots to fly Coast Guard aircraft and t was amazing to take on this leadership role! While in the service, I completed a Masters in Public Administration, where I realized the benefits of business ability to quickly adapt and solve problems where government is slower to react. This motivated me to apply to MBA programs, to tie together all my experiences to continue solving some of the big problems our society faces!
Kate: I was interested in a variety of career paths and disciplines, so I figured business school would be a great way to explore all of them. When I was exploring schools, I loved the people I got to meet when considering Booth. I got to network with current students in the Armed Forces Group (AFG) who helped review my resume, prepare for the interviews, and make my decision when the time came. The AFG group was strong and supportive and I loved the pay it forward culture. The brand recognition that Booth provided was also a plus. I knew that employers would understand the culture and rigor of the program. Lastly, I love living in Chicago! The city is large with lots of things to do.
Katie: My prior work experience all followed a very rigorous schedule which didn’t allow me to explore many interests. I was drawn to Booth because of the flexible curriculum and variety of opportunities to take courses, enroll in clubs, and spend time learning about topics I was curious about. The quarter system allowed me to switch up my focus area and schedule three times a year and then chart my own path.
How has the Armed Forces Group (AFG) impacted your Booth experience?
Kate: From the beginning, AFG has been a huge support system. I got to connect with other women and veterans here at school and has been a driving factor to bring the service culture to school. AFG has helped drive an understanding for what the service does both in the US and abroad. Additionally AFG provided me support during recruiting,networking, and providing connections across companies and industries.
Katie: I participated in the Service to School program which connects people in the armed forces with other service members in MBA programs around the country, which is how I got plugged into everything going on at Booth. After joining Booth, the AFG put on many professional and social events which I’ve loved taking part in. They are even family friendly; I have brought my daughter to the events and she had a blast meeting the other students and their families. It’s an instant community where everyone speaks the same language and I was able to find a home.
What are your long and short term career goals?
Kate: I was interested in investment banking because of the strong business foundation it would give me, which I could then extend to a longer term career leading companies across industries. I loved it. I spent my summer there and realized that the rigor in banking was quite similar to what we had in the military. Now I am the Investment Banking Group Co-chair and love helping the first years find their paths in the industry.
Katie: I returned to the Coast Guard for my summer, however, I had the chance to work in an entirely different sector – optimizing the payments systems within the Coast Guard. I got to practice the skills I learned in school and flex in a different part of the organization. I plan to return to the Coast Guard where I work in a finance capacity for the service. In the long run however, I am very interested in entrepreneurship! I would love to run my own business and am curious about the healthcare sector.
Do you have any advice for business school candidates?
Kate: Coming from a non-traditional business background, I would highly recommend leaning into all the resources and people found in business school. I was able to take classes in areas I didn’t have experience in, and the various student clubs helped me connect with people similar to myself. I joined social clubs like the Chicago Women in Business, Booth Ski, and Snowboard Club where I could do activities with like-minded people and expand my network. My advice is to join the groups and challenge yourself to do things you’ve never done before!
Katie: Coming out of the service, I was used to every moment of the day being meticulously scheduled with responsibilities. In business school however, I found that I had large portions of the week unscheduled, and it was up to me to balance my school work, extracurricular involvement, professional commitments, and family responsibilities. I struggled at first with all this ambiguity, and I would advise people to lean into as many things that are different to them as possible! Challenge all your preconceived notions and take courses, join groups, and take on leadership position that you didn’t think you’d do. One of the unexpected things I got to do at school was a course called Hacking for Defense where I was grouped with other grad students across the University of Chicago, including the Policy School and International Relations Department. We were then given a project from actual divisions of the military and were tasked with taking on a project from the US Navy. It was amazing to put our disciplines together to solve a problem that the Navy was actually facing.
A HUGE thank you to Kate and Katie for their words of wisdom and a thank you again to all our classmates for their service.
AFG Members 2022-2023: Geroge Seo, Edwin Konrad, Tom Nof, Spencer Wilhelm, Maya Shaposhnik, Andrew Sanchez, Shane Polzin, Eric O’Neil, Max McDonnell, Scott McKeon, Tom Huxtable, Dan Cohen, Chris Miller, Yishai Bass, Roei Haviv, Frank Cook, Charlie Cross, Robert Foltz, Chris Nelson, Doug MacIntosh, Brandon Hardman, Ben Graveline, Luke Brunea, Ryan Breznik, Brian O’Connor, John Kim, Kate Constantakis, Rak Lim, Jake Kramb, Dirk Macdonald, Shaun Ang, Chase Rogalski, Josh Kim, Dominic Newmann, Alex Shugaley, Jose Velis, Chris Knittle, Katie Pelkey, Luke Birch, John Josey, Daniel Walters, Kyle McAnally, Seojoon Oh, Neil Mori, Inbal Brosh, Ryan Lee, Jesse Lee, Sam Ramil, Johnathan Davis, Jeff Yao, Lance Gonzalez, Whit Thornton, Jonathan Bik, Efi Gavra, Jason Geytenbeek, Jason Shain, Reid Taylor , Stephan Bae, Ryan Kokell, Mike Gustafson, Zach Beavor, Long Phan, Brian Schmid, Wayne Poh, Dane Fusselman, Ben Stubblefield, Ben Register, Patrick Kauffold, Rhett Barker, Ryan Healy, John Lee, Andrew Slade, Maayan Teper, Jeff Huddle, Zach Bodner, Saj Patel, Yadin Arnon, Riley Dickson, Tylon Kim, Pablo Rivera, Michael Choi, Andrew Cook, John Hart, Janelle Van Lopik, Spencer Sweis, Yeantae Kim, Jerry Mooney, David Morin, Andy Hoch, Michael Hoffman, Rafael Ortega, Yoni Melamed, Amrit Hundal, Taylor McCracken, Vish Thadani, Zach Marquez, Tova Wasser Kyle Fredrickson, James Holder, Bryce Nesbit, Yong Cho, Kieran Howard, Alex Littell, Jordan Lewis, Will Cybulski, Naama Leibovitch Cohen, Damon Draught