2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Chris Salinas, University of Florida (Warrington)

Chris Salinas

University of Florida, Warrington College of Business

“Purpose-driven with a sense of humor, looking to make an impact on the world.”

Hometown: Orlando, FL

Fun fact about yourself: Through personal travel and deployments, I’ve been to 25 countries (and counting).

Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Coast Guard Academy (2010), B.S. in Government, International Affairs

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school Immediately before school, I worked a few jobs which included substitute teaching special education in Boston and doing sales for Power Home Remodeling Group in Philadelphia. Before that, I was an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard for five years, where I was a Deployable Team Leader for the Coast Guard’s International Training Division.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I interned at IBM in Cambridge, MA as a Senior Solution Sales Intern.

Where will you be working after graduation? IBM as a Senior Solution Sales Representative in Washington, D.C.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I’m a career mentor in the Graduate Business Services office, where I meet with other business master’s degree students to help them with their resumes, interview preparation, and overall job hunt. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience seeing the transformation some students go through from the first time you meet them to work on their resume to when they call you to help choose from their multiple job offers.

I’m also the President of the UF MBA Veterans Association. As a partially disabled veteran, I’m a huge proponent of Veterans Issues and supporting our student veterans through specific events or event just answering questions about the VA or G.I. Bill. I’m proud that UF is recognized as a top school for Veterans and I love seeing the drive to lead and succeed demonstrated by so many of my Veteran classmates.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Last October, I was honored to moderate a Q&A with General Martin Dempsey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I went to Sarah Carlson in our program office last Spring with a pipedream idea to get the General to UF to speak to business school students about leadership. After months of emails and logistics-working, we hosted General Dempsey in the historic University Auditorium for a speech, Q&A, and reception. While I personally enjoyed getting to speak with him at length, I was especially excited to give a few of my Veteran classmates the chance to meet and speak with him. The whole experience really showed me how much of a difference one person can make in the UF MBA program. We really can shape our own professional development, and the program office empowers you to do just that.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I was a Deployable Team Leader for the Coast Guard’s International Training Division, I took teams overseas to train developing maritime security forces of foreign nations. One such deployment was to Saudi Arabia, where I led an 11-person team to advise Saudi military leadership in their creation of a new “coast guard” service. It was a new type of deployment for my unit. Even though I was a relatively junior officer, I was placed in a highly-visible position of significant responsibility where I was working directly with senior U.S. and Saudi civil and military officials. The job was difficult, with constantly changing logistics, personnel, and security, but proved to be an incredible learning experience. I had to be extremely adaptable as we worked with our students and their leadership, while also keeping a high-level strategic perspective on our overall mission and its implications. I’m extremely proud of this mission and what my team was able to accomplish because we truly felt we were making the world a safer place.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Dr. Paul Madsen. He was one of the first teachers I had in the program and really eased my fears of accounting. He had an incredible candor and realistic understanding of how to teach a “less-popular” subject so that students retained information. He’s famous for teaching accounting by having us play monopoly, which was surprisingly effective, even if it did get a bit competitive among the MBA’s.

Why did you choose this business school? First of all, I’ve been a Florida Gators fan for a long time. I grew up in Orlando and nearly went to UF for undergrad and have always maintained an affinity for the school. Instead of UF, I went to a small military academy with less than 1,000 students in total. I thrived in that smaller environment where I felt I could make a larger difference and, while the University of Florida has over 50,000 students, the UF MBA Program has less than 100 combined full-time students per year. I knew that I could help shape my experience in this type of setting, and I knew that I would get unprecedented one-on-one career coaching to help me find the right job. The UF MBA program has rocketed ahead in the rankings in just a few years and the attention each student gets from the faculty and staff are the chief reason.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Remember this program is small, so it’s not a place to “fly under the radar.” You have no choice but to be involved and to be constantly working closely with a diverse group of classmates. Show the admissions staff that you want to take charge of your experience and have a plan for your future. Most of all, show you are open to constructive feedback and growing as a professional. The career services aspect takes a front seat, so you will be expected to be coachable and willing to give back by coaching others.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Many people assume that a big state school in the south doesn’t produce high-quality graduates who can compete with the traditional top-ten MBA program graduates. The fact is, however, that the UF MBA program continues to punch above its weight class, especially given its small population. The vast majority of us are going to companies across the Fortune 100, which is not an accident. In fact, outstanding career opportunities were the main reason I chose UF.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Something… ANYTHING about finance. It’s my Achilles Heel, so my learning curve has been long and slow. Studying up beforehand or having some finance experience would’ve saved me a lot of trouble.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? While I’ve certainly “transformed” my tangible skills, my MBA experience has really been about me completing my transition out of the military. As many veterans know, going straight into the business world can be challenging and confusing, coupled with the frustrations of having your experience misunderstood. I struggled with the job hunt when I initially left the military and wanted a program that could help me translate my experience into marketable skills. Since there’s such a focus on the career hunt here, I approached the job hunt with a renewed confidence and landed multiple interviews and follow-ups, eventually landing my top choice job and location. I really feel that business school has transformed my future, allowing me to seize opportunities I could not before.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I would have to say, Carolina Perez. We joke about her being the “cohort mom,” but it really is because she is just such a caring person (and only has a little bit to do with her awesome dog, Nugget). She’s incredibly involved in MBA program leadership, case competitions, and career coaching and shows a genuine interest in helping people both personally and professionally, which I really admire. She’s also a PowerPoint guru that I have much to learn from.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My good friend Dan, who graduated from Fuqua in 2016, showed me the light that was business school. One of my best friends from my time in the Coast Guard, Dan helped me to realize the doors an MBA would open for me, especially as I dealt with the difficulties of transitioning out of the military. Dan talked some sense into me and guided me through the process, introducing me to other MBA’s and helping me with my applications. Now it’s three years later, I’m about to graduate. I definitely owe him a beer.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? I’ve always thought “elevator pitch” was funny, because if you just started nervously firing your qualifications at me on what I was hoping would be a silent elevator ride, I’d assume you were a sociopath.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…using my VA educational benefits to further my studies in international affairs. I loved the international aspect of my time in the Coast Guard and would have loved to continue working either in D.C. or at a U.S. Embassy to help make the world a better place (yes, I’m that idealistic).”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Is it too cliché to say “priceless?” I’m extremely fortunate to be attending business school on the G.I. Bill, something I’m eternally grateful for. I’m a true believer in the power of education and its ability to open doors for you. To me, the dollar value of what my future holds is unknown, but I’m willing to bet I’ll be seeing a pretty substantial ROI.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Sing the National Anthem at a professional sports event.
  • Start my own business that does something good for society.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A purpose-driven, reliable peer who was always willing to help others.

Hobbies? I’m a pretty active person and enjoy things like hiking, camping, mountain biking, and working out. I love cooking, especially deceptively healthy recipes. I’ve always loved playing the guitar, singing, and just having jam sessions with friends, too.

What made Chris Salinas such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

Chris Salinas is a United States Coast Guard Veteran. He is currently a 2nd-year UF MBA student and President of the UF MBA Veterans Association. This past year, Chris read Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership by General Martin Dempsey. Inspired by his thoughts on leadership and inclusion, Chris approached the MBA program about inviting General Dempsey to campus to share these insights with his peers who would go on to become the next leaders in their organizations. A speaker of this notoriety had not been considered as part of the UF MBA speaker series previously and has fundamentally changed how the program thinks about speakers. After gaining support from the MBA program, Chris worked closely with me on an outreach campaign to invite other students who would benefit from General Dempsey’s words. This included UF MBA students (full-time and professional) and students involved in leadership programs throughout the Warrington College of Business and the Levin College of Law. Invitations were also extended to several veteran and leadership groups throughout campus including the UF Collegiate Veterans Society, UF ROTC and the Military Law Student Association. General Dempsey’s remarks were followed by a Q&A session with students led by Chris and touched on topics such as how to prepare for careers in complex, multi-functional organizations and the best way to incorporate and move towards a culture of inclusion.

Chris’ efforts to raise the level of everyone around him did not stop there. As President of the UF MBA Veteran’s Association, Chris is a tireless advocate on behalf of both the MBA veteran student population as well as the campus veteran community at large. He has spent numerous hours connecting our veteran student and alumni population, which is no easy task because UF MBA professional students and alumni are literally all over the map. Chris has enhanced the focus on student veterans throughout the program and he even created a welcome strategy for new MBA candidates and their families to help them understand all the opportunities available to them.”

Chris interned with IBM this past summer will be starting his full-time position at IBM in Washington, D.C.”

Meghan Blake

Assistant Director, Training and Professional Development



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