An Amazing and Challenging Journey

June 9, 2015

"All the players who arrive at Duke are immediately humbled in some way because of the level of the work, the speed at which they have to play, and the fact that they are not always the best player on the court.”

- Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Men’s Basketball Coach

The first time I walked through the neo-gothic stone archways into iconic Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke University, I got goose bumps. The atmosphere in Cameron Indoor was intoxicating, exhilarating, and as loud as a jet engine at takeoff. This was the first of many Duke basketball games I would attend as a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) candidate at Duke University’s The Fuqua School of Business – and, wow, I was hooked.

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My journey to Duke began as a Basic Qualifications Course (BQC) student at Navy Supply Corps School when an instructor mentioned the 810 Civilian Institutions (CIVINS) program, which provides Supply Corps officers the opportunity to spend two years as a fulltime MBA candidate at one of the nation’s top 30 MBA programs as ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek. I was so excited at the prospect of earning an MBA from a premier civilian institution, I immediately researched the 810 selection criteria and set out to establish the most competitive professional and academic record I could. I strengthened my academic profile by completing several upper level math courses and used tutoring and prep services to prepare for the grueling GMAT. I also applied for the most challenging assignments available to junior officers such as the JOL internship, Afghanistan GSA, and flag lieutenant. Almost 10 years after initially researching the 810 program, I proudly matriculated as a candidate of The Fuqua Daytime Class of 2015 and embarked on a journey more amazing and challenging than I could have ever imagined.

As a Naval officer with a decade of logistics and leadership experience, I was confident I could contribute diverse perspectives and practical experiences to classroom discussions. However, just as Coach K’s players are humbled by the level, speed, and ability of other players on the court at Duke, I was also quickly humbled by the level and speed at which the classes and concepts were taught, as well as the vast experiences, intellect, and accomplishments of my classmates. Many female MBA candidates struggle with the notoriously competitive, quantitative, and predominantly male (70 percent) business school environment, often experiencing a “confidence gap” that negatively affects performance and success in the classroom. However, I found the transition from the military to business school relatively easy and frequently rely on the training and confidence I developed as an accomplished female Supply Corps officer to assume a confident voice and leadership role within the program.

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While academic rigor and classroom participation are the foundation of business education, I am convinced the real value of an MBA comes from the leadership experiences, developmental opportunities, and professional networks found only in fulltime MBA programs. Some highlights of my engagements at Fuqua have included a 17-day travel abroad experience to China focused on business ventures, culture, language, and history; engaging in strategic planning discussions with CEOs and senior executives during a two and one half-year appointment to The Fuqua Board of Visitors; researching, developing, and communicating leadership and ethics priorities as a Fuqua / Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics (COLE) Fellow; and mentoring more than 100 veterans throughout the application process to Fuqua’s Daytime Program. While each of these opportunities has contributed to my continued development as a leader, teammate, and future global business manager; it was undoubtedly the business acumen, senior leader interaction, and leadership experience I developed as a Supply Corps officer that led to my success in these positions.

For those officers fortunate enough to earn an MBA, whether through Naval Postgraduate School or CIVINS, take advantage of the opportunity to reflect on global business issues, learn from accomplished executives and professors, refocus work and life priorities, learn from your brilliant classmates, and challenge yourself to lead and fail in a safe environment. With graduation and my next assignment as a Starbucks Training with Industry (TWI) Fellow just a few short weeks away, I am confident I have gained the academic, leadership, and network foundations critical to success in both civilian and military business settings.

By Lt. Cmdr. Monica Frey, SC, USN

Supply Corps officers interested in learning more about 810 CIVINS selection requirements should reference the “SC Post Graduate Education Screening (810/811 Board)” Flash from the Chief or contact the Supply Corps Career Counselor at supplycorpscareercounselor@navy.mil.