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Monday, March 04, 2013 - MBA program helps Army vet achieve career aspirations

To say Matt LaDuc, MBA ’12, entered Oakland University’s School of Business Administration with a wide range of experience and education is an understatement.

An Army infantry officer, LaDuc spent six years in the military, including 15 months in Iraq. A native of Pennsylvania, he earned a B.A. in criminology from the University of Florida, where he did so well that Florida’s Warrington School of Business Master of Science in Business Management program invited him to enroll in its cohort program, which is only open to qualified non-business majors.

But his long-term goal was to earn an MBA, then enter the business development field.

A perfect match

The combination of the SBA’s M.B.A. and its Center for Integrated Business Research and Education (CIBRE) consultancy programs proved to be just what he needed to achieve his goal.

Thanks to his Oakland University M.B.A. degree and the hands-on experience he gained in the program, he secured a position as the lead military business developer with Clark Power Services in North Carolina within a week of graduation.

LaDuc credits his success with the choices he made as part of the SBA’s MBA program.

Selecting marketing as a concentration complemented his operations background, while the experience he gained through a market research analysis project as part of his CIBRE consultancy project gave him the opportunity to put his skills to work and provided outcomes that strengthened his resume.

“When the opportunity to participate in the CIBRE program came up, I jumped at the chance,” says LaDuc, who assisted with a project for HAVEN, the Oakland County center for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Real-world skills

“Even though I didn’t have professional sales experience, I referred to what I accomplished in the internship in my interviews — real problem solving, focusing on the customer, being consultative in nature, finding a need and delivering on it,” he says

For HAVEN, LaDuc conducted a market research and feasibility analysis to help the organization review the possibility of opening a thrift store that would provide work experience for its clients and additional funding for the organization.

“We looked at who our base customer would be, who our target population would be, who our secondary population would be, and what their income was,” La Duc says. “Our goal was to identify and serve a particular group within the target market. We wanted to find out how we could meet their needs — which were nice products that don’t cost a lot.”

Benefits for everyone

“Matt was a real pleasure to work with,” says HAVEN President and CEO Beth Morrison. “He was very enthusiastic. He put a lot of time and effort into looking at all different angles and learning who we were and about our needs.”

CIBRE’s goal is to help students integrate real-world experience into their classroom learning. LaDuc’s internship at HAVEN did just that.

“It personalized what I was doing in class and made it real,” he says. “It drove accountability. I wasn’t just learning and taking exams. I actually had a client. It made what I learned stick.”

HAVEN’s Morrison echoes those sentiments. “The CIBRE program is great for the student because they have a client or customer in a safe setting,” she says. “They get to practice what they want to do for a living.

“Partnerships like this are really important and should aspire to be a win-win,” says Morrison. “We don’t have the personnel, time, money or expertise to do the leg work that Matt did for us, nor did we have the funds to hire a consultant. With Oakland University’s CIBRE consultancy program, we were able to pull together valuable information in a very cost-effective way. We were definitely able to use the information to move many steps forward and help get us to the next level.”

An awesome experience

LaDuc discovered Oakland University’s SBA thanks to a Michigan native he served with who spoke highly of the school, saying it is very “military friendly.” LaDuc, who attended on the GI Bill, found that to be true.

“My experience with Oakland has been awesome,” he says. “The whole staff, from Dean Tanniru to the professors to Paul Trumbull (coordinator of Graduate Business Programs), have been so amazing. They showed extra time and got us through stressful situations.”

Though LaDuc has been home for awhile, his time in combat is never far behind.

“After the military, I had a different perspective on life,” he says. “I was so happy -- I brought all my guys home alive. I was the only one in my group that didn’t have anybody killed.

“I felt like I had a new start on life,” he adds. “Going back to school after being in Iraq for 15 months was a real privilege, and it’s been a real honor to be a student at Oakland University.”

By Ann Marie Aliotta