Ryan Maher, MBA ’14, Helps Veterans Succeed at Olin Business School
Ryan Maher’s first interview with Olin Business School was via satellite phone from Afghanistan. A native St. Louisan, Maher was approaching the end of his five-year commission as a captain in the United States Marine Corps, and his father recommended Olin because of its excellent reputation. Maher rotated back to the U.S. in December 2011 and visited campus. He recalls his first meeting with Joseph Fox, associate dean and director of MBA Programs, “Joe was genuinely interested in my background. I remember sitting in his office and talking with him about the military for an hour. I came home and said, ‘This is an incredible program. I have to go to Washington University.’”
The transition from military life to academic life was not easy. “I was in Afghanistan, responsible for the lives of more than 200 people, and six months later I was in graduate school,” says Maher. “I think one of the hardest things for people to understand is that veterans address problems from a very different perspective. As a platoon commander, I would either meet the mission successfully or I would fail. And the price of failure was the ultimate price.” Maher credits the Olin Veterans Association (OVA), Dean Fox, and Sarah Miller, director of MBA Student Affairs, for making the shift much easier. “I can’t give Joe Fox and his team enough credit; they really go out of their way to support veterans. They made me feel like part of the team.”
Maher later served as president of the OVA and helped create new programs that support veterans’ needs as they make the transition to an academic environment. For example, Maher designed an MBA boot camp for incoming veterans. The pre-orientation program, which launched in 2013, invites first-year students from the military to arrive on campus several days early to prep for challenging core courses and receive career advising. “In my classes, 90 percent of the students came from the business world and had already begun their careers,” Maher notes. “This program helps veterans get a head start and acclimate a bit before classes begin.”
Maher now works as director of business development for Connexio Media, a digital advertising provider for college campuses. He says his Olin education prepared him fully for his new role. In addition to his coursework, Maher took four practica through Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. “I had zero business experience when I arrived, and these real-world consulting projects gave me valuable exposure to industries I wouldn’t have had the chance to see otherwise,” he says.
Maher’s dedication to Olin and enthusiasm for Olin’s veterans programs did not fade at graduation. He continues to stay involved by serving on the Olin Alumni Board and the Olin Veterans Steering Committee, and he gives back to the business school through an annual named scholarship and ongoing support of Olin’s veterans programs. “I feel, in some ways, that the school took a chance on me as a vet. I will be forever thankful to Dean Gupta, Joe Fox, and the rest of the team for the level of support they provided me. For the rest of my life, I will do whatever I can to give back to veterans' causes at Olin Business School.”
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