Carlson School of Management News

Former Naval Officer Helps Women Navigate Business School

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

MBA student Heidi Sandell served four years in the U.S. Navy as a division officer, then a navigator. She completed two eight-month deployments to the Middle East and Persian Gulf fulfilling disaster relief, theater security cooperation, and anti-piracy missions. She then completed an internship just before beginning her MBA studies last fall.

Today, Sandell is sharing her story to steer more exceptional women candidates to join the Carlson School community: As part of a new initiative, Sandell mentors women who are considering graduate school.

"For women, it can be intimidating to apply to business schools where most of the students are male," she says. "Just like the military, it's fairly male dominated. In order to keep attracting strong female applicants, it's important to form a real connection with them, bring them into the community, and show them this is a place to thrive and be successful."

Although she's only recently begun her second semester in the Full-Time MBA program, Sandell has plenty of enriching experiences to impart to her mentees. She's received an internship offer from her top choice company and is once again participating in the Elite Eight Brand Management Case Competition this year.

Despite her qualms about transitioning from military service to student life, Sandell has been pleasantly surprised to discover her military training is applicable to her MBA studies and will likely boost her future career. Skills like team building, decision making, communication, and resiliency have helped her along her first semester.

"Coming from the military, you get used to making tough decisions with limited information that have impacts not just on mission outcome, but on people. It teaches you how to distinguish individual personality differences and motivators between people, and you really learn how to communicate differently depending on which team you're working with," she says.

The Carlson School offers specialized resources for veterans in the form of coaching, financial support, and career services.

Upon completing her MBA, Sandell hopes to join an organization in communications or marketing where she can put down roots and grow her career. For more on her journey, check out this Q&A in the Financial Times.

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