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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2023 Graduate Education

Seeking Self-Improvement:
A Leadership Lesson for a Lifetime

By Matt Beer

Photo by WSU Photo Services

The Carson College of Business MBA programs are home to a variety of students, from newly minted managers to seasoned executives. A common thread, however, is their desire for personal and professional growth. According to Scott Carson, the college’s namesake, his No. 1. piece of advice for leaders is to “seek opportunities to improve yourself.”

His philosophies align well with the Carson MBA Veterans program. Military service provides a steady regimen of rigorous technical training, professional military education, and early opportunities for leadership. But for service members seeking to get outside their comfort zone, increase their knowledge, and broaden their experiences, the college’s online MBA programs serve as a unique path to self-improvement and professional advancement.

Communication Is Key

Leadership challenges came early for US Air Force Lieutenant Olivia Marx. Her first assignment was managing the maintenance of 30 aircraft with 360 personnel in one of the Air Force’s premier fighter-aggressor squadrons. Seeing her squadron come together after losing two of its members reinforced her belief that communicating with kindness is essential for leaders. “You never know what someone is going through unless you ask,” Marx says. With plans to make a career of military service, she decided to pursue her MBA. “Maintenance is definitely a business,” she says, “so I knew this degree would be useful to me as I progress.” Carson’s online MBA not only fit in with her busy schedule but also aligned with her leadership values. “I have had super-supportive advisors and professors who helped me through any issues and followed up afterward, free of judgment,” Marx says. Earning an MBA is hard work, but she says that, like serving in the military, “not all the good things in life come easily!”

Courtesy Olivia Marx
Courtesy James Charapich

Make Time

Even senior military leaders are encouraged to carve out the time for education. US Navy Commander James Charapich earned his Executive MBA while stationed at the Missile Defense Agency in Colorado in preparation to command an EA-18G squadron at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Charapich says deliberately dedicating time and space to make important decisions is central to his leadership philosophy. “As a leader, my goal is to propel the people who work with me to greater heights, achieve their goals, and become the best version of themselves” he says. Charapich applied the same willingness to carve out time and space to his degree. “You get out of the program what you put into it,” he says. “Hard work is rewarded with deep understanding and learning across disciplines with broad applicability to work and life in general.” For those considering an MBA for executives, Charapich says, “Go for it! It will be challenging at times, but it is possible to balance it with work and family through advance planning and disciplined execution.”

Courtesy John Bamonte

Finding Balance

US Navy Helicopter pilot John Bamonte was already eight years into his military career when he decided to earn his MBA. From commanding a single helicopter to leading 14-day training exercises on San Clemente Island, Bamonte has embraced balance in his leadership style. He sought the same thing from his MBA program. “Education is necessary for promotion into the senior ranks within the military,” he says. “I thought it important to meet and learn from professors and students outside of my industry to broaden my perspective.” Bamonte was frequently at sea while enrolled in Carson’s MBA program, and he found its flexibility allowed him to balance rigorous academic demands with his mission. The program honed his managerial decision-making, and he hopes to use his fresh insights to someday command a helicopter squadron. “It wasn’t easy to juggle both school and a full-time job,” Bamonte recalls, “but it was worth it.”

For more information on how you can support the Carson MBA Veterans programs,
please contact Matt Beer at