Bush Leadership Program Builds Community to Serve Veterans

By Matthew Beer

In the essay, Solitude and Leadership, William Deresiewicz explains why good leaders must embrace solitude and introspection. The practice forms and strengthens core values that can be summoned when facing tough decisions. The flip side of this coin is that leadership is also inherently a team sport. In today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected environment, it’s tempting to neglect the work of building meaningful relationships. My 22 years as an officer in the United States Air Force taught me to balance these practices, so when I arrived at Washington State University to support military-affiliated students in the Carson College of Business’s Online MBA program, I began seeking opportunities to have in-depth conversations and build lasting partners.

The chance to participate in the Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program couldn’t have come at a better time. Launched in 2018, the program was designed to develop the skills of those who serve our nation’s veterans. I joined 42 other scholars from industry, academia, health care, and nonprofits based on their leadership experience as well as the potential of their work to create lasting impact. The cohort met for five sessions between Dallas; Washington, D.C.; and Seattle. The Bush Institute put us face-to-face with industry experts, policy-makers, and thought leaders who shared their wisdom and challenged our assumptions.

Matthew Beer supports military-affiliated students in the college’s Online MBA program.

The biggest impact for me personally, however, has been the connection with my fellow scholars. Many are combat veterans, some military spouses, and others are committed civilians—but they’re warriors, every one. They’re warriors for improving the lives of the nation’s military community by answering President Lincoln’s timeless call to “finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” I’ve been inspired by their strength, grace, and zest for life, and through them I’ve been able to tap into a vast network of veterans’ wellness, education, and employment resources across the country.

Student veterans bring teamwork, sense of service to WSU

This worldwide community has been game changing for our work at WSU. Fifteen percent of our Online MBA students are active duty military, veterans, or spouses. These students live and serve all around the world, from Okinawa Air Base, Japan, to Landstuhl, Germany. The ability to connect them with a service organization in Dallas, a transition expert in San Diego, or a mentoring program with worldwide online access is simply invaluable.

Our mission at the Carson College is to create insight and opportunity through study and the power of our community, a community that’s strengthened by our student veterans. They bring perspective, teamwork, and a strong sense of service to our classrooms. They also bring the ability to quickly orient themselves in unfamiliar environments, create relationship-based strategies, and achieve results in high-pressure situations, making them well-suited for tackling the challenges faced by today’s companies.

Every time I leave my office and set off across campus, I pass the street sign for Veterans Way. It’s a constant reminder that the path of each student veteran is filled with its own obstacles and possibilities. The path isn’t meant to be walked alone, however. Just as with leadership, life and learning are strengthened by relationships and the power of community. Thanks to the Bush Institute and the Carson College, our students are part of a growing community committed to insight, opportunity, and improving the lives of our nation’s student veterans.