2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Patrick Brennan, University of Florida (Warrington)

Patrick Brennan

University of Florida, Warrington College of Business

“A dedicated, team-focused leader with a high-quality sense of humor.”

Age: 40

Hometown: Born in London, England; resides in Sanford, NC

Fun fact about yourself: I possess a near-encyclopedic knowledge of The Simpsons trivia. I use this super power for the forces of good both in everyday conversation and meme construction.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BS in Geosciences with a focus in operational weather forecasting; Summa Cum Laude – Mississippi State University

Where are you currently working? Detachment Chief, Senior Enlisted Advisor, leading a team of 40 United States Air Force Combat Weather Forecasters at Fort Drum, NY

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During one of my deployments to Afghanistan, I worked at a major warfighting headquarters. The Taliban would consistently fire rockets and mortars at our base from the mountains and towns surrounding the location with no discernable pattern. I spent over a month analyzing tens of thousands of pieces of historical meteorological data and found certain parameters that correlated very closely with the timing of these deadly attacks. In this manner I devised a method to accurately predict the rocket and mortar attacks, allowing the three-star commanding general to focus security patrols against the enemy during those times, while directly increasing force protection and combat readiness for more than 13,000 U.S. and coalition personnel.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Having attended middle school and high school in Florida, I was originally drawn to a Florida school, and the University of Florida Online MBA program is consistently ranked among the best in the world. I expressed interest in several different online MBA programs, but the admissions staff and VA office staff were so unbelievably friendly, helpful, and excited about their program and the school that their professionalism and attitude helped convince me that UF was the correct choice.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? The people. UF’s blended Online MBA program minimizes one of the biggest obstacles of online education – the lack of personal interaction with professors, classmates and teammates. Many of us chose to arrive at our term weekends in Gainesville a day or two early simply so we could spend time together and interact with each other. I met life-long friends during my two years in the UF MBA program, a fact for which I am extremely grateful.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? As an Airman, moving around and deploying frequently, most of my college career has been online. I think the thing that surprised me the most is how committed and how helpful some of the professors can be. I believe that there may be a perception that online professors fire-and-forget with assignments and are minimally hands-on. It’s been my experience that many professors apply themselves just as thoroughly through email and video teleconferences as they would in a brick-and-mortar classroom.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? There are differences in the level of involvement of online professors just as there are differences in in-the-classroom professors, but I feel as though the extremes in online professor quality were broader. Of course, the main difference is the level of personal interaction with classmates. As teammates, we leveraged virtual communications as best as we could, but sometimes there is no substitution for sitting in a room together and studying and interacting together. Regardless, I received a quality education despite the challenges that confront an online student.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? There is very little I would change. This program enabled me to graduate on active duty and through a deployment that took me across the majority of the Middle East, while also giving me the opportunity to personally interact with my cohort and professors.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? As a Detachment Chief, I have used a lot of the principles I secured in Organizational Behavior and Operations Management to streamline processes and enhance the cohesiveness of my teams. I have even tapped into the spirit of our Entrepreneurship course to identify mission needs and develop methods to satisfy them. I look forward to continuing to put my developing management skills to use in the future.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I will be retiring from the Air Force in November 2020, so I hope to secure employment as a Strategic Analyst, Operations Manager, Project Manager or similar position. Long term, I would very much like to move into a COO position or equivalent where I can leverage my experience as a leader and manager.

Don’t Miss: The Entire Honor Roll of the Best & Brightest Online MBA Grads of 2020

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