Published: November 7, 2013
Brad Genser, Omer Granot, Jeff Prosek, and Kevin Flike
Kevin Flike, MBA ’15, considers himself “the luckiest man alive right now.”
Shot in the stomach while deployed in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2011, Flike underwent months of grueling rehab and had to medically retire from the Army. Looking to sharpen his leadership skills, he sought out a “top MBA program” and was accepted to MIT Sloan where he promptly joined the MIT Sloan Veterans Association.
Now, nearly fully recovered from his wounds, Flike, like some other MIT Sloan veterans, is ready to talk about his service and his wartime injuries. He says the veterans’ club provides the perfect venue for sharing his experience.
“Some vets don’t want to talk [about war]. Some do. I tend to talk, maybe too much, just to make people feel comfortable and let them know they can ask me anything,” Flike said.
The MIT Sloan Veterans Association has about 50 active members, said Jeff Prosek, MBA ’14, co-president of the club, which welcomes all veterans from all military branches—U.S. and international—and from all MIT Sloan programs.
The MIT Sloan veterans’ relay race team
Shauna LaFauci Barry, assistant director, MBA Admissions, said there are several dozen veteran students in total from all programs at MIT Sloan. According to Barry, the Admissions Office actively recruits veterans. “We believe they provide invaluable contributions to our diverse community. The military veterans seem to transition well into the curriculum because they are not afraid to work hard, they can balance multiple priorities, and they keep things in perspective,” she said.
Transitioning from military to civilian life is often challenging, according to Flike, Prosek, and several other club members, including Brad Genser, LGO ’14, a former U.S. Army Armor Officer, and Omer Granot, MBA ’15, who served in the Israeli Defense Force. The club can ease the shift, as it offers an opportunity for veterans to connect.
“Veterans have experiences and memories that only other veterans would fully understand and appreciate,” said Jack Sullivan, EMBA ’15, who served in the U.S. Marines for 10 years and was on active duty during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. “We ‘get’ each other immediately,” he said.
Veterans can also assist one another with logistical issues, such as understanding the G.I. Bill, and other technical matters during the graduate school application process, Prosek said.
Club members are eager to dispel some of the myths that sometimes surround the military. For one, those who have served in the military aren’t just the “follow orders” type, said Prosek. “In many ways, the military is much more,” he said. “It’s not as rigid as people think and there’s a lot more room for creativity in terms of finding new ways to do things and making tough decisions with limited information.”
Genser agreed and said there’s also a misconception that wartime soldiers don’t want to discuss their deployments. “There’s a little bit of hesitation to talk to us about our experiences in war. I want to be an ambassador [and let people know it’s OK to talk about it],” he said.
Of course, there are some veterans who don’t want to talk about their time in the military, Prosek added, but the club can serve as a way for anyone, veteran or not, to get involved and support veterans and their causes. The group has held several charitable events for the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, including participating in a 192-mile relay road race from south of Boston to Provincetown on Cape Cod. The MIT team, organized by MBA ’14 Dan Long, raised nearly $12,000.
The club has also sponsored several outings to Red Sox and Bruins games and mixers with Harvard’s veterans’ club. Prosek said the club is also planning some events during AdMIT weekends in the spring.
MIT Sloan veterans were also active in helping to launch the Institute’s Veterans Organization. This club, open to anyone in the MIT community, was formally recognized by the MIT Association of Student Activities (ASA) last spring, said Eric Victor, a fifth-year chemistry doctoral student who served in the U.S. Army, and was deployed to Iraq twice.
Victor said the new club is planning events that range from simple networking and social activities to potential career panels with veterans in various industries. To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org
MIT Sloan—and MIT—Veterans Club members are eager to connect with all students and are ready to share their unique leadership experiences. During this month in particular, they also remember their military colleagues deployed worldwide. “It’s good to remember that even with troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are still a lot of people who are very much in harm’s way,” Prosek said.