Meet Duke Fuqua’s MBA Class Of 2020

Alexander Wilson

Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

Always seeking learning opportunities and personal growth. Energized by finding responsible solutions to important problems.”

Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve spent over 18 cumulative years of my life overseas in more than 30 different countries. I grew up having to speak several languages and I attended six different international schools. Every member of my family was born in a different country. Typically innocuous questions like, ‘Where are you from?’ can trigger a minor internal identity crisis for me. It passes quickly though.

Undergraduate School and Major: The University of Texas at Austin, Geological Sciences

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: United States Army, Senior Special Forces Medical Sergeant

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Last year, while deployed overseas, my team and I found ourselves in a dire situation where a nearby village suffered an attack by a terrorist group. There were dozens of civilian casualties and no hospital for a hundred miles. Our team of twelve (only two of us formally trained in medicine) had the desperate responsibility of treating more critical patients than we had the human resources to handle. But the medical cross-training I had done with my teammates over the years kicked in and we worked together to treat every patient quickly enough so that all lives were saved. Seeing the effect of uncounted hours spent teaching my teammates field surgical skills and witnessing them employ those skills in such a meaningful way to directly save innocent lives was the proudest moment of my life, and the most important accomplishment of my career.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Supportive. I’ve been absolutely blown away by how genuine and actively supportive every person I’ve met here has been. Everyone I’ve met has impressed me as the type of person that would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it.

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? How well-rounded it is. While I was doing my school search, I had a list of qualities that I needed a school to have. When considering other top schools, I noticed that each school was known for maybe one or two strengths or aspects of their culture. Fuqua was the only school that had all of the other schools’ strengths and on top of that managed to never sacrifice the quantity or quality of one strength for another.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’ve had an absolutely fantastic experience with the Duke Armed Forces Association (DAFA) and I cannot wait to start contributing. DAFA helped me more than any other entity when applying to business school, and they were my first real introduction to just how genuinely caring the student body at Fuqua is. They are men and women of service to others, and they will bend over backwards to help those who need it. Just like the DAFA members to whom I reached out during my school search, I’m going to make sure to put myself in a position to provide as much help as possible to any prospective applicants and set them up for success.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I knew that the end of my time in service was approaching and I knew that an MBA facilitates a smooth transition for separating service members. My job as a green beret was fulfilling and challenging, and I could say that I knew that I had a positive and lasting effect on the world. I wanted that to continue. Former colleagues of mine who had found fulfilling work after the military told me that an MBA creates a lot of opportunities for those who like challenges and want to make a meaningful impact on both local and global communities.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Monetarily, this is typically an easy decision for separating service members to make, as most of us have access to the GI Bill and its generous benefits. The time investment decision was also a no-brainer; two years is a small investment for a lifetime of returns.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to five other programs that met my selection criteria and were geographically located in places that I would want to spend two or more years. Because I knew exactly what I was looking for, all of the schools I applied to had very similar profiles.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The factors I prioritized were historical employment reports, institutional focus on moral leadership and ethics, strong academics, team spirit and community involvement, and lastly geographical location. I started by looking for schools that had a strong track record of placing MBA graduates in the industry I was interested in and then narrowed it down to a list of schools that I found most exciting.

From there, I began emailing professional and affinity clubs at the schools on the top of my list and asking for a few minutes of their time to chat and to ask them questions about their experiences at their school. Every school will give you a decent introduction to their values and mission on their website, but I knew that interacting with current students was the only way to get the ground truth.

Through these conversations I learned a lot about the real spirit of each school and the people who attended them. I made note of who I enjoyed conversing with and which community felt the most natural. I used these interactions to determine where I would apply, then during the interview visits I made my final decision about where I would fit best.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? During high school, some of my classmates and I spent a summer rebuilding homes for low-income families and the disadvantaged, and it was one of the formative experiences of my life. None of us had any construction knowledge or DIY skills, but that didn’t matter. I learned that just showing up is half the battle. And being there and lending a hand made an enormous difference for an entire community. The experience gave me a sincere appreciation for the importance of and need for service. Many years later as a member of the military, I was able to contribute to the global community in a way that cemented my conviction that service to others is of paramount importance in finding fulfillment.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I will be focusing my efforts on working in management consulting. It is a great fit with my experience, skillset, and goals. After college, I worked for two years as the team lead and geoscientist for a company in the drilling and exploration sector of the petroleum industry. We utilized an emerging technology to conduct real-time subsurface analysis and plot well paths. I enjoyed the intensely analytical and detail-oriented nature of the job as well as the challenge of gathering precise and actionable data. While serving in the military, there were many occasions where I was charged with resolving highly unusual and delicate conflicts. In my careers I’ve used both structured and unconventional approaches to problem solving and discovered that finding solutions to complicated issues is something I do well and enjoy.

Where do you see yourself in five years? The ‘where’ is not as important to me as the ‘what’. There are certain causes in line with my core beliefs that I want to make sure that I’ve become involved in furthering within the next five years. Part of that will be looking for ways to contribute to movements that speak to me. For example, seeking out opportunities to work on projects involving the environment will be a priority. I have a passion for ecology that developed over a lifetime spent in the wilderness; from trekking the Amazon, to sailing the Galapagos, to studying the Komodo dragons in Nusa Tenggara.

I’m also excited about the energy industry, a field in which I’ve invested a lot of time and dedication. I’d like to use my appreciation of the environment and my energy experience together to work on important projects that aim to address the toughest obstacles facing the industry today and its transition to cleaner energy. In five years, I see myself having combined my passions with my practice.

Meet the Class of 2020 Series

London Business School

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School

University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

MIT Sloan School of Management

Columbia Business School

UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business

Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business

Yale School of Mnnagement

University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

New York University’s Stern School of Business

Emory’s Goizueta School of Business

Washington University’s Olin Business School

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