Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University
An Army veteran who is passionate about working towards a sustainable future.
Hometown: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Fun Fact About Yourself: I grew up in a house with 12 dogs! My mom bred golden retrievers, corgis, and Irish wolfhounds, so our home was always full of pups.
Undergraduate School and Major: United States Military Academy at West Point – Management
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: U.S. Army – Battalion Operations Planner at the “Old Guard”
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishments in the Army were achieved while operating as a member of a team. My first stint as a Platoon Leader provided the opportunity to serve as a change agent for a 35-soldier organization following its return from Afghanistan. I wanted to instill a learning culture to assist with the unit’s transition. Through candor and empathy, the organization was able to effectively understand what it needed to become successful. It wasn’t always easy, but over the course of a year, I was able to lead the unit through a transition in which we collectively attained the skills and competencies necessary to operate effectively in conventional environments. In this capacity, that same organization has since deployed everywhere from Germany to South Korea, serving with distinction each time.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Authentic. I have been very impressed by my fellow MBA classmates at Johnson. You can really tell the passion each person brings to the program within seconds of conversing. That, coupled with their diverse backgrounds, makes Johnson truly a great place to learn from classmates.
Aside from your classmates, 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? Johnson’s Sustainable Global Enterprise Immersion program was integral in my decision to attend. After sitting through an informational seminar, I was able to fully realize that Johnson had the professors, programs, and tools necessary to help me successfully transition from an Army officer into a professional within the renewables industry. The intensive and immersive nature of the SGE program affords me the greatest opportunity to become fully versed and competent in a field in which I have no prior experience.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Cornell Energy Club!
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? West Point provided me with a strong academic and ethical foundation, and the Army gave me a lot of practical experiences managing and leading teams. Before I could successfully make the transition from the military to the renewable energy industry, I realized that I possessed analytical, functional, and social weaknesses that needed to be addressed. Pursuing an MBA affords me the opportunity to become better-versed in the language of data analytics, acquire formal skills in operations management, and take the time necessary to become better at the art of networking, while learning the nuances of a culture outside of the military.
How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment?
I approached the question of whether or not an MBA was worth the investment based primarily on timing and monetary considerations. Timing-wise, there was never going to be a better period or age to pursue an MBA. I was going to need to change professions anyway, so why not spend two years setting up for success prior to jumping into a new industry? Monetarily speaking, I had accrued a benefit, the GI bill, that would be wasted if I didn’t utilize it. That, coupled with the scholarship I received from Johnson, dramatically decreased the debt burden I would have to incur to pursue an MBA.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? MIT Sloan, Yale, Wharton and Darden
How did you determine your fit at various schools? First, I reflected. I think too often individuals get wrapped up in moving directly from their current position to envisioning themselves at their “dream” school without allowing time to think through ideas and planning. After reflection, I reached out to every school I was interested in and asked to speak with a current student. I did this by reaching out to each school’s veteran’s community. After getting a general feel for the school, I then completed extensive research. I found that the employment reports were very helpful. After narrowing the list down to my top five choices, I visited each school. During these visits I attended a class, toured the campus, and got a feel for the local community. I was able to gain a firm understanding of each school’s culture through the amalgamation of these events.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I don’t believe there has been any singular moment that I can say has defined me as an individual. Successes, failures, and life events have all caused me to evolve into who I am today. The foundation of this evolution has been guided by world events I became attuned to during my adolescence and teenage years. The events of the early 2000’s imbued a strong sense of duty and service to causes greater than myself. Although I am now switching professions, these sensibilities still guide how I find professional value and meaning.
What do you plan to do after you graduate? Project management for utility scale renewable energy solutions.
Where do you see yourself in five years? I will be on the west coast working in project development for First Solar.