Ashton Daily, University of Virginia (Darden): Ashton Daily is a study in determination and perseverance. In 2011, his life was forever altered when he was severely wounded during operations in Logar, Afghanistan. It was an event that tested his mettle – and prepared him to handle anything that comes his way.
“My road to recovery included six reconstructive surgeries and one year of occupational therapy,” he explains. “Eventually, I was able to rejoin my unit and re-earn my position as a light-infantry company commander. That experience refocused my life’s priorities, illustrated the network required for real resiliency, and gave me perspective for future challenges.”
That new challenge involves earning an MBA at the University of Virginia’s Darden School. Here, he intends to expose himself to a range of industries and roles, while building a skill set that’ll ease his transition to management consulting. In the coming years, this “self-styled Texas BBQ pitmaster” hopes to settle into the good life he has surely earned with his sacrifices.
“I envision myself serving in a Case Team Leader / Project Manager role at leading management consulting firm in Dallas, TX,” he says. “My young family will have expanded with another child or two, and my wife is ecstatic that we can finally put down roots in a community. I smoke 13-lb briskets with oak firewood on Saturdays while I watch college football.”
Andrea (Andi) Frkovich, London Business School: Andi Frkovich is a strong believer that attitude determines altitude. That doesn’t mean that this “Harry Potter nerd” and U.S. Navy Lieutenant goes all dogmatic with any sign of backsliding. After six months of living and working in Egypt, she adopted a new mantra: “ma’lesh.”
Translation: “Never mind that.”
“Having a ‘type A’ personality, this saying initially irritated me,” she admits. “However, after a couple months of cultural immersion and one particularly rough day, I began to embrace the beauty of the “ma’lesh” mentality; “ma’lesh” wasn’t used to excuse the speaker from responsibility for the situation at hand, but rather to remind the speaker that situations tend to affect us to the extent that we mentally allow them to.”
It is a mentality that has come in handy for Frkovich, whose work requires poise like no other. Most recently, she led a security team at the UAE’s Port of Jebal Ali. Before that, this “yogi” served as the Office of the Deck aboard a Guided Missile Cruiser, where she oversaw all shipboard operations ranging from ship navigation to giving the green light to engage in combat.
“I trained a team of sailors to effectively drive and fight the ship. We successfully completed two international exercises involving over 50 high-risk exercises and 120 international warships, enabling the ship to certify for deployment to the Middle East. My bridge team was also selected to execute the test launch of a Tomahawk cruise missile.”
What led Frkovich to the London Business School? Already holding a bachelor’s in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies from Duke University and a master’s in Politics from the University of Cambridge, Frkovich is thrilled with the program’s international flavor. “I have always believed that travelling and learning from people from diverse backgrounds is one of the best ways to grow, both intellectually and socially,” she says. “I knew LBS would provide me with a truly global experience that would help challenge and develop my ideas, enhance my global perspective, and help me become more socially and culturally aware.”
Natalie Shuntich, Indiana University (Kelley): Whenever Natalie Shuntich drives past the Exit 83 sign in New London, Connecticut, she is reminded of how far she has come since enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. It is a place, she says, where she developed discipline and grit. It was a difficult transition, she says, where the privileges she took granted were taken away and had to be “earned back.” Over time, she bought into the program, internalizing lessons such as never compromising her values and fully committing to what’s truly important.
Eventually, she became a role model and an officer, ultimately rising to a District Branch Operations Manager. Her service was also recognized by the U.S. Navy League, which named her the “Regional Junior Officer of the Year” in 2014 – an award that honored both her commitment and her positive impact.
“I was recognized for exemplifying the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty,” she writes. “I was cited for regularly volunteering in my community and promoting the Coast Guard in a positive manner; serving as the lead conning officer in over 100 drills and seven real-life emergencies; training five new conning officers; and coordinating site-specific logistics for 19 visiting ships, several distinguished guests, and 275 service members partaking in a prominent five-day training event.”
Alas, the return to civilian life hasn’t always been smooth. “I used to parallel park a 225-foot ship on an almost daily basis, but these days I struggle with parking my little green car,” she jokes. Now, this “female version of Mighty Mouse” has found a new calling: earning an MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Her advice to future students? Pick the program where you feel most at ease.
“You need to know if you can picture yourself in the shoes of a student on that campus on a Friday night to understand if you fit in there,” Shuntich counsels. “School rankings only go so far; you have to look for a place where you can be your authentic self!”
Paul Lwin, Yale School of Management: When Paul Lwin was 10 years old, his parents emigrated from Myanmar as political refugees. This move eventually opened the door for him to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, serve as a Flight Officer, and eventually graduate from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. In the process, he has flown combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – not to mention the best aircraft that the U.S. Navy has to offer.
“As a Test Flight Officer, I got the opportunity to fly in more than 25 different aircraft from World War II–era planes to the latest modern jets,” he says.
Holding master’s degrees in aerospace engineering and computer science, Lwin is now pursuing a new mission: entrepreneurship. He is currently developing his new venture called Curiosity Innovations. He describes it as a “technology company that will provide modern and innovative solutions to the warfighters” – one that leverages both his tactical flight prowess and engineering background. To jumpstart the process, he enrolled in the Yale School of Management, a place where he found like-minded peers who are committed to both stretching boundaries and paying it forward to the community.
“The MBA classmates I’ve met are extremely passionate,” he says. “They display a curiosity to want to understand their chosen fields and to be impactful leaders.”