Meet Duke Fuqua’s MBA Class Of 2019

Sam Freakley 

Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Husband, father, patriot.  More Steve Carrell than Steve Jobs.  More Jimmy Buffet than Warren Buffett.

Hometown: Woodstock, Virginia

Fun Fact About Yourself: I grew up in a military family. Between growing up, and my time in the Army, I moved 16 times in 29 years. I attended a different school every year between 5th grade and my sophomore year of high school.

Undergraduate School and Major: The United States Military Academy at West Point, B. S. Economics, Class of 2010. BEAT NAVY!

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

  • 2010-Present: United States Army Officer
  • Infantry Platoon Leader-Fort Drum, NY/Kandahar, Afghanistan
  • Infantry Company Executive Officer-Fort Drum, New York
  • Assistant Operations Officer-Wardak, Afghanistan
  • Infantry Company Commander-Fort Stewart, GA/Republic of Chad/Germany/Poland

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2011, I was a platoon leader responsible for leading 30-plus soldiers in the birthplace of the Taliban. My unit, the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, was assigned to Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. There, some 20 years prior, Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, rallied his students to take on the corrupt, abusive warlords that plagued the country. I arrived about three months after the unit deployed. Not only was I fresh out of college and training, but I had to join a platoon that was already battle-hardened and highly cohesive. Through the shared misery of a brutal Afghan summer and close encounters with the enemy, I endeared myself to the platoon. A few months later, my platoon was selected as the lead element for a large battalion operation that involved seizing enemy terrain and establishing a new operating base. We were successful and allowed the Afghan government to extend into areas they had never reached before. Over the course of the deployment, we sustained significant casualties. I’m proud that even though we were physically and mentally tested, we were able to maintain the focus and discipline necessary to accomplish our mission.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants?   Manage your time effectively. Time is both your most precious resource and your greatest enemy. Round 1 and 2 will seem ages away and before you know it, it’s Christmas and you haven’t submitted any applications.

Create and follow a timeline that allows you to do the following:

  1. Study for the GMAT. Find a program that works for you whether it be in person, online, or on your own.
  2. Take the GMAT multiple times. The GMAT is often the single greatest barrier of entry for people into schools. Prepare to take it more than once to get into your target school.
  3. Determine your school criteria. What is important to you?  Culture, geography, prestige, cost, etc.
  4. Research schools. Before you spend significant time and money on an application, make sure you know about the program. Reach out to current students and alumni. Find out what makes the place special.
  5. Visit schools. If possible, visit the schools you are most interested in. It will be huge in facilitating an authentic application.
  6. Execute applications that represent who you are and why you will be an asset to your desired school. It was my experience that admissions committees, especially Fuqua’s, truly care about you and your story, so make it good.

Between your work and personal life, you will be balancing many competing priorities, so it is essential that you are disciplined and focused in your approach. Don’t underestimate the process, and don’t be intimated. Thousands of people get into business school each year, so can you.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? As someone transitioning from active duty military service, the loss of identity and community was my chief concern. The “Team Fuqua” culture at Duke alleviated that concern. I wanted a program where people are fully engaged, not just putting their heads down for two years and grinding out a degree. Current students, alumni, faculty, and administrators are energetic, passionate, and truly care about making a significant contribution in and out of the classroom. I read about Team Fuqua on the Duke website and was skeptical at first, but it is the real deal.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school?  I was not an ideal MBA candidate. If we just went by hard numbers, I probably would not be at Fuqua. Granted, I have some hard-learned leadership and decision-making skills, but no technical know-how to back it up. At year’s end, I’d like to say that I stepped out of my comfort zone academically and socially, balanced life at home, and validated the admissions committee’s decision.

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