2020 MBAs To Watch: Jeremy Stratton, University of Maryland (Smith)

Jeremy Stratton              

University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Former Cavalry Scout, skilled in complex problem solving, and dedicated to self-development.”

Hometown: Burnsville, Minnesota

Fun fact about yourself: I really enjoy traveling and have visited 40 countries. In fact, I’ve also lived for at least a year in 6 of them.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Northern Arizona University – Bachelor of Arts in History

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? U.S. Army – I held numerous roles as a Cavalry Officer, but most recently served as an Observer, Coach, and Trainer for our NATO Allies and Partners in Germany. Essentially a tactical consultant for foreign armies.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis

Where will you be working after graduation? IBM Global Business Services, Senior Consultant in Talent and Engagement

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President of the Smith MBA Veterans Club
  • Smith Relations Chair for the Orientation Committee
  • Katz Invitational Case Competition Excellence in Presentation
  • Developed our Lead Fearlessly Program for the Class of 2021

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I felt that business school was a great opportunity to stretch myself and challenge my capabilities. Beyond the mental and intellectual challenges, I sought physical challenges as well. I signed up for and completed my first-ever Marathon here in Washington D.C. during my first year of school. It was a truly rewarding experience that was only eclipsed by the second marathon I completed, the Marine Corps Marathon. This was unique because seven months ago, during my internship, I lost my father to suicide and have been affected far greater than I could possibly have imagined. I ran my second marathon in his honor as a “Lifesaver” participant with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and will remain active in support of Mental Health advocacy and suicide prevention here in the District.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Not losing any soldiers under my direct command. At 24 years old, I was leading a platoon of Cavalry Scouts at Combat Outpost Keating, the most isolated and remote outpost in all of Afghanistan. There literally were no U.S. forces north of our position. One specific fight lasted almost six hours with approximately 70 Taliban attempting to infiltrate our defenses. My platoon oversaw outpost security, at the bottom of a valley and surrounded by three mountain tops. Though we were far outnumbered, we were better trained, better disciplined, and fought with greater intensity. As I directed one soldier to provide first aid to an Afghan who had been hit with an RPG, I was simultaneously coordinating a deliberate reposition of our defenses to deny the Taliban’s ability to infiltrate our Southeast corner. At the same time, a smaller element had moved closer to my position. Because my RTO (Radio Telephone Operator) was firing his MK-19 (Automatic Grenade Launcher) with prescribed sectors of fire, I was the only one close enough to return fire. I protected his position while RPGs landed a few feet away and PKMs (Soviet machine gun used by the Taliban) literally kicked up dust 8 inches from where we took cover. Those 32 Calvary Scouts taking initiative, displaying phenomenal courage, and validating our long road to war has continued to instill in me a great sense of pride. One very difficult to replicate. Yet as extreme as this experience was, I have subsequently found it reinforced my business focus. In a tech-driven economy, firms are consistently fighting for a competitive advantage. This requires flexibility, maneuverability, and creative solutions to compete and succeed in a complex market.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? We have so many fantastic professors here at the Smith School. If I must choose one, it’s Professor Shreevardhan Lele. As I left the Army, I was confident in my qualitative skillsets. What I truly wanted to develop were quantitative skillsets and logical reasoning. As our Statistics, Game Theory, and Ethics professor, Dr. Lele flawlessly incorporated complex ideas with a ruthlessly successful pedagogical approach to teaching. Furthermore, he is the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs for our MBA program and is a large reason why our students are successful as they transition back to the workforce. He has undeniably made the program not only more enjoyable but academically fulfilling.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Smith School of Business places an enormous emphasis on all forms of diversity. Honestly, it’s one of the best traits of our school. One event embodies this entirely: The Asian MBA Association’s International Night. I have seen some amazing dances, vocal performances, and truly impressive displays of artistic talent with a wide range of musical instruments. This year we had 15 different cultures represented with an impressive spread of diverse cuisine. We even have a fashion show that includes the children of many of our students! We work together every day, but this night is such a great opportunity to relax and enjoy everyone’s culture in a way that is important to them.

Why did you choose this business school? I was still in the Army, living in Germany, when I applied for business school. What I noticed immediately was how much people mattered to the admissions team and the student body. Everyone went out of their way to ensure I was able to make an informed decision. Whether it was lightning fast email responses, Skype calls well after business hours, or administrative accommodations, the Smith School ensured my transition from active duty Army to a full-time student was smooth and successful.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Our school truly embodies the spirit of pushing yourself beyond your boundaries. In fact, the university’s motto is to Be Fearless. Whether it be the development of societal issues through our “Fearless Ideas” campaign or the business school’s “Leading Fearlessly” mantra, it is important to identify ways to elicit change in ourselves and our society. Displaying the vulnerability to Be Fearless and challenging yourself to a greater purpose will set you apart from other applicants while simultaneously positioning you for a deeper level of self-development during the program.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The Smith School has a strong reputation for placing a heavy emphasis on data-driven decision-making and for good reason. We have some of the best academics in their field teaching cutting edge processes. Our MBA/MS dual degree is immensely popular, you are limited only by your own initiative. You want to learn Python, R, SQL, or Tableau? We have standard classes or weekly workshops that will facilitate technical skills while developing managerial frameworks. However, we also do a tremendous job at developing qualitative skillsets. Our heavy emphasis on the Lead Fearlessly Program places MBA students in vulnerable positions of self-reflection and growth. We execute challenging and practical exercises that build on these skillsets by bringing in executive coaches trained in developing core competencies for leaders in some of our country’s largest companies. Leader Development is a critical component to corporate success and the Smith School recognizes this.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Honestly, I like to live my life without regrets. Reflecting on past decisions and wishing you could change them is not very helpful. But my advice to incoming students? Participate in more case competitions. These are extraordinary opportunities to develop your problem-solving skills with a real-world and complex business problem. Plus, this is a staple of business school!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Hands down, this is Erick Loyo. His journey overcoming so many challenges in life isn’t just inspiring, but incredible. He grew up in a rougher part of New Jersey. As a teenager, he learned he was born in Mexico and brought to the U.S. undocumented. Absorbed by difficult conditions and standards of living, he continued to work hard and was eventually granted DACA under President Obama. He subsequently earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance, worked as an Investment Banker in New York, and is headed back to New Jersey in a competitive leadership development program. He has an unapologetic desire for self-improvement and commitment to excellence. Plus, he’s the most inclusive and emotionally intelligent student in our cohort. All around an awesome person.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I had so many great leaders in the Army, but my Commander when I was in Germany, Colonel Jacob Larkowich directly influenced this decision in particular. He is a truly phenomenal leader who embodies a combination of professionalism, intellect, and strategic foresight that is rarely seen together. He has a mastery of communication skills, capable of motivating a small team of Slovenian infantry or a battalion of British Airborne Paratroopers. We talked at great length about aligning personal values and goals, the role of leadership in business, and how to leverage my experience in the Army for a career in consulting.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. To remain happy and fulfilled in my career and engaged with all of life’s responsibilities.
  2. To maximize positive impact at the highest level of my organization and its clients.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope they remember someone who positively impacted their lives and maintained a sense of humor throughout the more challenging periods of school.

Hobbies? Experiencing everything Washington D.C. has to offer with my wife and kids. There are so many great museums, the food scene is amazing, and access to nature is plentiful. Our country’s first National Park is only 90 minutes away!

What made Jeremy such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

Jeremy came to Maryland Smith from the U.S. Army with the goal of transitioning to a corporate role. His military background prepared him for the challenges of business school, but his sense of humor and collaborative nature has truly helped him succeed. Jeremy is easy to connect with and enjoys getting to know his classmates. He always looks for ways to support his classmates and encourages them to step outside their comfort zones as he has. He brings a unique perspective to the class, both his Army background and as a father of two. Jeremy started the MBA program with a toddler and welcomed a son at the end of his first year. Jeremy balanced fatherhood and school while staying active and engaged with the Smith community. He is president of the Veterans Club, served on the Orientation Committee, and has participated in case competitions. In addition to all these responsibilities, he ran his first marathon at the end of his first year and encouraged his classmates to run the Army 10-miler with him as well. He, unfortunately, lost his father during his summer internship and ran a second marathon in his honor in the fall of 2019. Jeremy has taken his personal experiences to grow and not let any opportunity pass him by. After receiving multiple offers, Jeremy will join IBM after graduation as a Senior Consultant in Talent and Engagement.”

Wendy W. Moe
Associate Dean of Master’s Programs


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