Meet The MBA Class of 2022: Neal J. Bray, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Neal J. Bray

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

Veteran and coffee enthusiast who has led teams ranging in size from 25 to 200.”

Hometown: Piedmont, SC

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once competed in a dog sled race in Wyoming.

Undergraduate School and Major: United States Military Academy at West Point, Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: U.S. Army, Company Commander

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Owen’s leadership development is truly outstanding and unique. The Leadership Lab and classes offered at Owen do an incredible job of helping students understand their strengths and weaknesses as a leader. The Army taught me a lot about leading, but there is always more to learn. At Owen, the personality evaluations I participated in showed me attributes I can improve upon, but also attributes that enable me to contribute value.

At Owen, you are part of one of the most dynamic business environments in the country. What has made Nashville such a great place to live and learn for you? The culture of Nashville is so different from anywhere else I have ever lived. People from all walks of life come to Nashville, exposing you to numerous cultures and life perspectives. Also, the food here is hard to beat.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Intelligent. It is humbling to see the work experience everyone brings to Owen and how my classmates effectively apply their experiences to the classroom material.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Leading a Rifle Company in Iraq. From 2018-2019, I led an infantry company in Iraq. My soldiers were spread out over 135 miles, completing two completely different mission sets. The distributed leadership aspect of that was a unique challenge, but also incredibly rewarding to see junior leaders accomplish numerous challenges in a complex environment.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? My wife and I had our first child four weeks ago. Balancing family life and school is challenging, but being present for the birth of our son is something I will always remember. The support I received from everyone at Owen during this period is incredible.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? An MBA is the best way to prepare for future leadership roles, whether staying in the Army or making the pivot into a new career. Time and again, MBAs prove the versatility of the degree prepares them to thrive in a dynamic work environment.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Over the twenty-three months I spent in company command, I had multiple defining moments. Being in that middle manager role for the Army and leading up to 200 people taught me how to be confident when working outside of my comfort zone. In turn, these moments prepared me for the MBA experience, because I had little to no prior experience with business-related matters before coming to Owen.

DON’T MISS: Meet Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class Of 2022

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