Marines drill business students on leadership

Cyrus Nuval
Staff Writer

In times of war, decisions made by U.S. Marines can be the difference between life and death. One wrong move can put a team in danger and the leader is responsible for every life on their team.

Business students engage in team exercises to learn about the importance of communication and decision-making at a Marine Corps Leadership Workshop last Friday. Photo by Forrest Nguyen
Business students engage in team exercises to learn about the importance of communication and decision-making at a Marine Corps Leadership Workshop last Friday. Photo by Forrest Nguyen

Marine officers from Quantico taught future business leaders how to apply military leadership techniques to the civilian world during the Marine Corps Leadership Workshop at Snead Hall last Friday.

The workshop included discussions about leadership, ethics in leadership and what leadership means in the United States Marine Corps. Students also engaged in active leadership exercises that focused on fast decision making, team-building and problem solving that were lead by six Marine Corps instructors from the Marine base in Quantico, Va.

Capt. Clark Smith, a program instructor, believed that the event was a success because of the large number of seats filled, student participation and positive feedback.

“This group is really our target audience,” Smith said. “They were goal-oriented, driven and very professional. These are the type of people (Marines) have most in common with.”

Smith said the students were learning skills that apply as much to the business world as the battlefield.

“By exercising the skills and techniques we focus heavily on in the Corps, like clear communication and team building, these students can get an advantage over others in their job.”

“Everyone today learned a lot about leadership through sharing ideas, seeing examples of leadership and really how leadership in the military applies in the world of business,” he said.

Seth Vaults, a student in the master’s program at VCU’s Center for Sport Leadership, said he valued the experience of learning from career-long leaders. He said some of the activities gave him lessons he’ll bring into the professional world.

“What I really will take with me from the seminar is communication and how clear communication is important. We were put in a couple of situations where giving clear directions is the way to solve the issue,” Vaults said.

Leading the event was retired Col. Kenneth Dunn, who said the seminar was a way to introduce civilian students to the U.S. Marine Corps’ brand of leadership techniques.

“We picked the School of Business because we know that business schools normally have leadership development courses, which is why we want to introduce these particular, leadership-minded students the way leadership is handled and exercised in the United States Marine Corps,” Dunn said.

According to Dunn, the leadership seminar program was developed in 2011 after a mandate from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, to increase diversity with the Corps.

“We visit colleges and universities with a diverse student body throughout the country to educate and instruct them in Marine Corps leadership and, hopefully, to attract these diverse students to the Marine Corps,” Dunn said. “We’re not here to recruit but we hope to attract top talent students to an exciting, honorable and leadership-oriented career in the Marine Corps.”

The Marines chose VCU as a prime location for their Marine Corps Leadership Workshop, which has been held in other universities across the U.S. including Cleveland State University, Texas Southern University and the University of Pennsylvania, according to Monica Horsley, the events coordinator for the VCU Business Careers Services.

“It was actually the Col. Dunn and the other Marine Corps officers that requested to host their seminar at VCU. Since it was well received by students in other schools, we agreed,” Horsley said. “We hope to bring it back next year because it was well attended and the students want to learn valuable skills that will give them an edge when applying for jobs and once they are in the real world.”

Business major Jamie Dawson said it was interesting to see how military techniques and perspectives can apply to business and that she learned some skills that she hopes will help her outwit potential competitors in the civilian job market.

“What I really thought was interesting and very important was the Observe, Orient, Decide and Act thought process loop,” Dawson said. “If I apply the OODA loop in a problem solving situation, I can arrive at an informed decision faster than my opponents.”

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