I was scratching around looking for a book length project to sink my teeth into and started calling graduate business schools
I thought I might find some great fodder among graduates who had completed their studies in the late eighties and early nineties. Invariably I would get shuffled off to a "media representative" tasked with the specific responsibility of the business school or department. I understand that their job is to determine whether my inquiry was real or not and my job is to convince them "I'm truly worthy."
Despite a well deserved reputation as a tenacious reporter, I was reasonably confident that most of the people I've worked with over the years would conclude that "I'm worthy." Particularly since as a Demo producer and reporter editor, I'd helped large numbers of one-time graduate students fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams.
But a funny thing happened along the way and the event is best illustrated by a conversation I had with someone from the Stanford Graduate Business School, the institution that most interests me. In discussing the background of incoming students I was told that x percent were female and y percent were male and that such and such came in as new students to the graduate program from various undergraduate programs and a smaller number came in from Stanford's internal engineering entrepreneurial track. I thought "well that's to be expected but I wonder how many students came on board after real-life experience."
To someone who got their degree at the ripe old age of 24 after a genuine real-life experience, my next question was instinctive. "how many of your incoming students are vets?"
The pause from the other end of the phone lasted eons I could well imagine the gears spinning up in the media rep's office across from Stanford's Lane Hall." Vets? We don't have any veterinarians," she said.
"No veterans, Ms so and so. you know, men or women who have served in the armed forces and are using their GI Bill to get advanced degrees."
The silence was deafening but I expected it."I don't think we have any in our program," she said.
At this point in the conversation I had mentally subtracted at least 20 points from the score I've mentally awarded Stanford's esteemed grad business program. But,"hey," I thought, "Stanford is the home of the Hoover Institute and their mascot is the chicken hawk."
Within seconds I'd gone from a slow burn to an out of control fast burning wild-fire fuse. I mean, how much money has Stanford received in Darpanet and other defense-related funding and yet there are no veterans in the Grad Biz school? What's up with that? ? After all, it's not like ring-knocking graduates of Hudson High, Canoe U or Dooley School (respectively the US Military Academy at West Point, the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs) wouldn't consider an MBA from Staford following military service? But no, this category of student is completely absent at Stanford.
Subsequent to my original conversation I've learned that a number of professors at Carnegie Melon University, and various other Universities including satellite campuses of the University of California are now reaching out to make sure that veterans are aware of their programs. For the sake of my generations children now in uniform, I hope that more schools begin actively recruiting vets into various entrepreneurial programs.
I was the product of one such program. For me it started at 8:30 a.m. when I collected my final pay from the finance office at Camp Pendleton and walked into a business/technical journalism class at 1:30 the same afternoon. And guess what, most of my instructors were themselves vets.
I rankle whenever I hear some neoconservative tell me "no entitlement program has ever paid off."
"Excuse me, my learned political scientist," I fire back."Let me tell you about the GI Bill, It generated over 40 trillion dollars over its life and helped create multiple generations of entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers and even venture capitalists. Don't believe me look into the backgrounds of the founders or principles of firms like Draper Fisher Jurvetson or Kleiner Perkins, Caufield and Byers.
You shouldn't be surprised to find that more than a few of those people wore a uniform and went to school on the G.I Bill. It's this understanding that made me wonder what's up at Stanford, particularly since of the firms mentioned above is so closely associated with the school and has a principle someone who wore Army green while working in a sensitive position at NATO's headquarters in Belgium.