Ex-Navy SEAL, Japanese TV journalist, 60-year-old former Wall Streeter: MIT Sloan School of Management welcomes diverse members to new class

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., August 29, 2011 — One student entering the MIT Sloan School of Management this fall completed more than 360 combat missions with Navy SEAL Team 5 and other military units. Another is a former Japanese TV reporter who hopes to expand her nation’s media coverage of global issues. And representing the full range of ages and backgrounds of about 400 students reaching MIT Sloan’s Cambridge campus, a not-so-retired executive who held top posts at Wall Street investment firms for 25 years will study next to a student who just completed her undergraduate studies at MIT.

“With the passage of time, my image is evolving from that of the weird guy in the front row to simply another member of the class, albeit with gray hair and Brooks Brothers’ shirts,” says George Fisher, 60, who is seeking MIT Sloan’s Master of Finance degree after holding senior positions at Prudential-Wachovia, Fidelity Investments, and Morgan Stanley. “I am hopeful that my training here and the distinction of an MIT degree, combined with my experience, will provide me with an opportunity to get back into the hurly burly of the financial services industry in some interesting and useful capacity.”

Other students also plan to do useful things with their MIT Sloan degrees. “MIT is a unique place to catch up with cutting-edge technologies that are contributing to how people get information,” says Misato Adachi, 28, who enrolled in the MIT Sloan MBA program after working as a television reporter for five years in Tokyo. “Japanese media are very domestic-focused and rarely discuss international matters. My future goal is to reach people around the world to collaborate and solve cross-border issues, such as immigration and refugee problems.”

Nearly 40 percent of the MBA Class of 2013 is from counties other than the United States. Their mean work experience is almost five years. But few worked in a position quite like that of Sean Bonawitz, 27, a Los Angeles native who spent four years as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal platoon commander with the Navy. Leading a squad of highly trained bomb technicians in special operations overseas, his platoons did two tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne and Navy SEAL Team 5, completing more than 360 combat missions, including more than 130 high-risk counter-terrorist operations.

“After my second tour in Iraq, I had the option to extend my naval career, but only as an administrative leader removed from combat operations,” Bonawitz says in explaining his decision to seek an MBA. “With the operational phase of my career regrettably at an end, the allure of business leadership was simply too strong. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to undergo a profound personal and professional transformation while attending MIT Sloan. This remarkable institution will provide a truly collaborative environment that will encourage me to excel during rigorous academics while greatly increasing my exposure to the wide and varied path of business leadership.”

As the youngest member of the incoming MIT Sloan MBA class, Christina Johnson, 21, hopes to learn from the experience of classmates such as Bonawitz. But Johnson, a Los Angeles native who just completed her undergraduate education at MIT in electrical engineering and computer science, will offer her own insights and experience. “In our world today, there is a disconnect between technology and the business world,” she says. “As fascinated as I am by technology, especially with my engineering background, I know it’s absolutely critical to have the knowledge, from marketing to logistics/supply chain, to make that technology useful to our community, our country and our world. MIT Sloan is the perfect intersection of both the technology and business worlds.” Besides, adds Johnson, as an MIT and Cambridge veteran, “My classmates should feel free to ask me about anything related to MIT culture. I also know the best restaurants in the Cambridge-Boston area.”

Xi Wang, 27, who was born in a town in China’s northernmost province but grew up in San Francisco, will need to know her way around Cambridge. Enrolled in a dual MBA-MPA degree with MIT Sloan and the Harvard Kennedy School, she intends to use her two degrees to promote public-private collaborations, “which hold huge potential in stimulating and scaling sustainable development. In addition to my current aspirations for how I could apply my MBA-MPA, one of the things I am most excited about for my next three years of school is that I will be among people who will stretch my concept of the possible.”

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