The Bayonet

Wednesday, Apr. 02, 2014

MCCC instructors can pursue grad degrees

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For small group instructors with the Maneuver Captains Career Course, their primary focus is on teaching and mentoring the Army's future company commanders.

However, while their focus is on educating the Army's next generation of leaders, there are also opportunities for those SGIs to receive a high-level education in the civilian sector.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence, with the support of the Directorate of Training, has forged partnerships with Auburn University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University that allow SGIs to attend classes on their own time in pursuit of executive master's of business administration degrees.

"It's not just a win for the officer - it's a win for the Army," said Col. David Snodgrass, director of training. "We have officers who are exposed to leading business practices. They're exposed to other cultures as a result. They've visited places like Germany and China. ... Those are the kind of broadening experiences that you typically wouldn't get in the Army."

The programs help Fort Benning and the MCCC compete with other Army programs that offer their instructors the opportunity to pursue master's degrees, Snodgrass said.

The executive MBA offered through the programs also has numerous applications, both inside and outside the Army.

"What we've found after talking with our officers is that, in addition to being a marketable degree once you get out of the Army, it's actually a very useful degree to have in the Army," Snodgrass said. "A lot of the skills such as organizational leadership and accounting are going to be very useful in an Army career. ... There's just a number of transferable skills that are required in big business that are going to transfer to large organizations in the military."

Capt. Mark Evans, an SGI who is pursuing his executive MBA through the Georgia Tech program, said he has taken classes on corporate finance, operations, business strategies, organizational behavior and business ethics.

These classes, he said, have helped him to become more educated, and thus a better instructor for the MCCC.

"Any time you're taking a course about dealing with people, that's something I do every day," Evans said. "It really provides you a framework for communicating and helps you to understand different influences. You understand things that may have an economic impact on an organization or that may have an operational impact beyond the destruction of an enemy element. ... It just kind of helps to understand the inner workings of organizations."

Snodgrass said students who are participating in the programs are bringing what they have learned back to the MCCC classrooms and enhancing the program of instruction.

"Being part of a graduate program, you are exposed to some of the best instructors in the world," Snodgrass said. "So, when you see how they teach and see the techniques they use, you're able to adapt those to your own style and subjects, and our instructors have been able to do that.

"We've had officers who participated in the Georgia Tech program and they took some master's classes in critical thinking. They were so impressed by what they learned that they wanted to adapt it and teach it as part of the MCCC curriculum. We had critical thinking classes as part of TRADOC's common core curriculum, but what they were able to do was take those common core classes and expand on them to turn that into a graduate-level quality class."

Snodgrass said there are two officers currently enrolled at Auburn, two at Georgia Tech and six officers have obtained their MBA from Georgia Tech.

SGI largely attend classes on weekends and complete course work on their own time, something both Snodgrass and Evans said helps to teach time management skills.

"I'm getting my master's degree, my wife is getting her master's degree and we have a 3-year-old and a 10-month-old," Evans said. "You have to be very careful about how you schedule your time. My time is divided up into 15-minute blocks, and that's my whole day."

The programs fall in line with MCoE Commanding General Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster's goal of developing a pattern of lifelong learning.

"You don't want to grow stagnant," Snodgrass said. "You want to grow and constantly challenge yourself and make sure you're constantly getting better. The graduate programs are certainly a way to do that. They expand your horizons."

In addition to the classroom knowledge the program provides, Evans said it also has provided him with a unique opportunity to interact with his civilian peers.

"That's one of the best parts about this is being able to go and meet your civilian peers and see what it is they do and how they think," Evans said. "It helps me to relate to people. There are lots of things that military guys may not think are a big deal that other people think is a very big deal. It's just a different perspective and worldview. They're very collaborative in terms of seeking a middle ground solution."

Evans began the Georgia Tech program in August and will complete his degree in December. During that time, he has attended two five-day residencies and will make a 15-day trip to China in the near future.

DOT helps to support those trips by providing the SGIs enrolled in the various programs with leave or TDY. Evans has also had the support of Infantry Branch, as he is being allowed to stay until December to complete his degree.

Currently, Snodgrass said the programs can sustain four to five officers per year, but the goal is to expand the program in the future in hopes of receiving full upfront Army funding for each officer enrolled.

"The next phase of this is looking at how we can expand these programs in a way where it's of mutual benefit to the officers and the institution," he said. "So, in the future, we want to see if there are ways for the Army to pay for this up front, possibly with an additional service obligation to ensure the Army gets a return on its investment of sending these officers to these schools. ... We would be able to send an officer back out into the Army who's got instructional experience, who's steeped in tactics and doctrine and who has an advanced degree from a top-100 institution in the country.

"That's going to be a challenge in financially constrained times, but we think it's worth pursuing."

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