2017 Best MBAs: Andrew J. Brennan, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Andrew J. Brennan

Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh

“I like challenges, and I accomplish things.”  

Age: 31

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Fun fact about yourself: I was almost attacked by a Grizzly Bear in Wyoming while hiking in 2014. It was the scariest moment of my life, which is saying something considering I was formerly a military helicopter pilot in Afghanistan.

Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Military Academy at West Point. B.S. Management w/ minor in Systems Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

United States Army. Aviation Officer (Captain). UH-60 Pilot.

Best Buy Logistics. Distribution Supervisor.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? I did not intern anywhere in summer 2016. I spent part of the summer hiking a stretch of the Appalachian Trail, and the rest of the summer growing the nonprofit organization I started and continue to lead. Those duties with my nonprofit organization took me to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, Charlotte for the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, and numerous trips to D.C. and NYC.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working for the nonprofit I founded, the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation as the organization’s Executive Director.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Both of my years in business school were spent growing the nonprofit I founded, whose mission is to ensure that a National Memorial is built in Washington D.C. for the Global War on Terrorism. I lead the team that began lobbying activities on Capitol Hill in February 2016, and within one year, enabled two House bills and one Senate bill to be introduced in Congress. The bills received support from more than 75 Congressmen and 10 Senators. Our Foundation’s efforts resulted in media coverage in the The Washington Post, New York Times, Fox News, The Associated Press, and in military/veteran outlets like Military Times, Stars and Stripes, Task & Purpose, and We Are The Mighty. We garnered support for our endeavor from General David Petraeus; former Commandant of the Marine Corps General James T. Conway; Jan C. Scruggs, who is the founder of the Vietnam Wall; Medal of Honor Recipient Florent Groberg; and other notable individuals who sit on our advisory board. We also have the support of and partnership of more than 10 National Veteran Service Organizations that include The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wounded Warrior Project, American Gold Star Mothers, The Green Beret Foundation, The Travis Manion Foundation, Team Rubicon, etc.

I also volunteered as a wrestling coach at my high school my first year in the program. Furthermore, I also served as a Veteran Advisor on the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System’s Veteran Advisory Board during both years in my program.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud of the fact that I was able to balance growing my organization and working outside of the program, while still succeeding academically inside of it.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Bringing every single one of the soldiers in my platoon home from Afghanistan in one piece.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Easily Dr. Barry Mitnick. Dr. Mitnick taught two classes that I took (Market Manipulations and Business & Politics), both of which were very unique in that they were essentially business history courses. I appreciated his teaching style. In my opinion, what is often overlooked in business school is history. Many trends and lessons can be seen that are often applicable from other eras and then applied in the present or future.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite course was Entrepreneurship. I gained the insight that everything I had been dealing with and struggling with in my two years of setting up my own nonprofit was normal and experienced by nearly all entrepreneurs.

Why did you choose this business school? Pitt’s return on investment is very attractive. I decided to attend Pitt’s business school to gain one of the most needed credentials to be marketable in the private sector: an MBA.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Having the time during the MBA program to step away from the workforce for a bit and reflect on life up until this point.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? It is no secret that business schools are rated against one another on three factors: GMAT, placement rate, and starting salary. Given that start-up ventures are risky, and non-profits do not pay as well as private sector jobs, I was extremely surprised to experience the level of support I have received from my professors and the administration in pursing an unconventional career path that may not be in the school’s best self-interest.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Talk to current students and ask questions before arriving.

What is the biggest myth about your school? We have no myths.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’d have to go with Alex Sumkin. She is confident, was an incredible student, is and down to earth. She’s going to be highly successful.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was bored watching guys move boxes around a warehouse in the private sector.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…having an impact somewhere else, likely in the Veteran non-profit space or supporting the military community in some capacity.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? If I were the Dean, I’d create a dual-degree program at Katz to obtain an MBA and Masters in Public Policy/Public Administration

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to be a White House Fellow in three to five years and would like to then eventually lead and solve problems at higher levels in our government.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Frank Conforti, my high school wrestling coach. Frank mentored me at a critical juncture in my life, and had he not been there, there is no telling where I would have ended up in life.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I was a guy who spent my time adding and creating value while in school.

Favorite book: Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer

Favorite movie or television show: Movie = Top Gun TV = Dexter

Favorite musical performer: Eddie Vedder

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere with mountains and a trail.

Hobbies? Hockey, Long-Distance Hiking, Firearms and Tactical Shooting

What made Andrew such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“As a member of the Class of 2017, Andrew Brennan brought an entrepreneurial spirit and an unwavering passion to achieve his unconventional post-MBA goals. His unique perspective as a retired Army Captain and Black Hawk Pilot engaged his classmates in ways he did not expect. In one instance, a business faculty member called on Andrew to present to both undergraduate and graduate classes on the congressional process and lobbying in Washington, which was based on his success in introducing two bills into the House and one into the Senate. In addition to sharpening his own business acumen while at Katz, Andrew was able to translate his military leadership strengths into a classroom setting, enhancing his peers MBA experience.

Andrew successfully garnered the support of well-known military and government figures to turn his dream of building a memorial for the Global War on Terror into a reality. He supported it through his resourcefulness and execution of a well-built strategic plan. His drive and motivation to honor and remember his generation of war veterans, and to provide a place to heal for those who have served and their family members is unmatched. He has received national recognition for his efforts, and Katz is proud to have Andrew join the ranks of our most successful alumni.”

Melissa Shapiro
Director, Katz Career Management Center

DON’T MISS: THE COMPLETE HONOR ROLL: BEST & BRIGHTEST MBAS OF 2017