From Covert Missions To An Online MBA

Photo of Benjamin Golata, student of Indiana University's Kelley Direct, in Air Force uniform inside the cockpit of a plane.

Benjamin Golata is a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and a Kelley Direct MBA student

Benjamin Golata’s second office is a cramped affair, built in the 80s with worn seats and a metallic smell; it can only be reached by a shaky set of steps and at certain times the noise level can be deafening. It also reaches speeds of 619 mph. And the views are out of this world.

Golata, 27, or Captain Golata as he’s known around Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, CA, is an Air Force pilot of the KC-10 Extender, essentially the oil tanker of the sky. These jumbo-sized planes carry more fuel that most people will consume in their lifetimes. Fighter jets zip up to the KC-10, and in a feat of aerial finesse, connect to a tube the size of a fire hose all while flying in tight formation. It’s as simple as pumping gas, except while hurtling through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, thousands of feet above the earth.

For Golata, it’s merely another day’s work. But it doesn’t end there. On this particular evening, he’ll drive home to Vacaville, CA, power up his computer, and pull up a Google Hangout. He’s got a two-hour group meeting where he’ll rehash decisions for a market simulation project with classmates from around the country. Afterward, he’ll spend another hour or two reviewing business law cases so he can post his observations in an online course forum before finally calling it quits. Most nights, he spends three to four hours on coursework.

Golata is one of 1,072 students enrolled in Indiana University’s Kelley Direct program, where he’s earning his MBA online. Kelley was among the very first business schools to offer the virtual version of the degree in 1999. Since its inception, 2,298 MBAs have graduated from the program. This year, the program topped U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the best American online MBA programs.

Increasingly, top-tier B-schools around the world are adopting online formats, and students like Golata are signing up for them in record numbers. For many online MBA students, the Internet-based experience allows them to keep a job they love, while laying the foundation for a successful future career.

Golata flies the KC-10 Extender, which can refuel plans in midair

Golata flies the KC-10 Extender, which can refuel planes in midair

Golata has always wanted to be a pilot. “Ever since I was this big,” he says, holding his hand a few feet from the floor. “I’m just one of those kids who always looked up at the sky and always wanted to do it, so luckily I get to live my dream, which is pretty awesome,” he says. But racking up flight miles and missions has its drawbacks: Golata didn’t want to abandon flying, but he recognized spending time in the cockpit might hurt his prospects of a more corporate career in aviation consulting. “As you can see my MBA doesn’t really apply to much here,” he says, gesturing to a daunting array of gauges, knobs, and switches in the cockpit. “But I don’t want to come out and be behind on my business skills.”

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