HANOVER, N.H. — Paul Movizzo spent 30 years in the Navy as an aviator piloting an E-2C Hawkeye early warning radar detection plane, as well as commanding a team involved in electromagnetic warfare.
But despite the high-pressure and leadership assignments — which included serving on the U.S. Embassy staff in Baghdad — Movizzo felt he wasn’t fully equipped with the proper tools when he was looking to transfer his work experience in the military into the business world.
After a job at Timken Aerospace didn’t pan out, Movizzo began reflecting that even though he knew his problem-solving skills and ability to lead under fire honed in the Navy could be adapted in a business environment, he realized “maybe I didn’t have everything I needed in my suitcase” to make the transition.
Through an acquaintance, Movizzo learned about a new program at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business that is specifically designed to teach former military personnel and “elite” athletes the fundamentals of business management that would help them make the leap into a business career.
Called Next Step, the program — which will begin its second session next month — has already assisted more than 65 veterans and athletes navigate from flight decks and ski slopes into offices at such companies as Amazon, Dell, Visa and PricewaterhouseCoopers, providing a cadre of skilled and motivated employees who are highly prized by employers.
“My strategy was to look at industries where I could put the skills I learned in the military to work — leadership and problem solving in a high pressure environment,” Movizzo said. “There is intrinsic value to any organization in those skills.”
But, Movizzo candidly admits, “the transition to a new environment can be difficult.”
Tuck’s two-week Next Step program is arguably the B-school equivalent of boot camp: Participants are put through a dawn-to-dusk program that has them in classes, seminars, workshops, tutorials, presentations, coaching sessions and social functions that expose them to everything from overview of financial statements to branding, strategic planning, marketing, law and “process analysis.”
Classes are led by Tuck’s full-time professors — no “adjuncts” or per diem faculty — and students are paired with Tuck MBA students who are available to assist outside the classroom with homework or offer pointers on prepping for job interviews and resume polishing.
“It’s a little bit of drinking from the firehose,” said Joe Hill, clinical professor of business administration at Tuck who “distilled” his micro-economics course for the program. “We keep them pretty busy.”
The push for Next Step began with Punam Anand Keller, a management professor and the associate dean for innovation and growth at Tuck, who oversees the business school’s non-MBA and executive education programs. Keller was appointed by Tuck School Dean Matthew Slaughter in 2015 to expand the school’s program offerings to hard-to-reach students who typically fall outside the MBA track.
Among the Tuck programs Keller oversees is the intensive, four-week summer Bridge program designed to expose liberal arts and other non-business college majors in the basics of business to prepare them for entry-level jobs in the corporate world.
Keller said the idea to develop an intensive business education immersion program for veterans looking to transition into business was sparked when a second-year Tuck MBA student and military veteran wandered into her office three years ago to relate how “lost” he felt during his first year at business school.
Although more than capable of handling the rigorous academics, the student nonetheless explained that his disciplined military experience didn’t easily prepare him to slide in with others who appeared to have a head start with a basic familiarity in business principles and the financial lingo bandied about every day on corporate staffs.
“He said, ‘If there was a program like Bridges for veterans that would help prepare me for business then maybe I wouldn’t have lost as much time during his first year as I did,’ ” Keller recalled him saying.
Keller began to wonder about other military veterans who might be facing similar challenges when transitioning into business ranks where colleagues would already be acquainted with the basics.
“I said, wow, this is good, we should be thinking about this,” she said.
So Keller began “digging around” and discovered there really wasn’t a Bridge-like program targeted to veterans at other top-tier business schools. (Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Ignite program is the closest thing, but it is targeted to those already pursuing other graduate studies and largely aims to funnel them into Silicon Valley careers.)
Then a decision that the Next Step program should be expanded to include “elite” athletes — typically Olympians or other high-level amateurs — was made at the suggestion of another Tuck administrator.
That made sense to Keller: both veterans and accomplished athletes are groups whose training has led to laser-beam focus on accomplishing difficult tasks, but who also may be uncomfortable when moving beyond their narrow discipline.
“They are people who can do things that less than one percent of the population can do, but they don’t always have the skills to transition to other jobs,” Keller said.
Keller tapped into the veterans network at both Tuck and Dartmouth College to raise funding for the program in order to hold down its cost — the $1,500 fee includes tuition, most meals, rooms at the Hanover Inn and Six South Street Hotel and travel vouchers provided by JetBlue Airways. She also utilized the network to spread the word to potential recruits.
Tuck ran a “pilot” Next Step program in 2016 that included about a dozen students, but in 2017 the program attracted 65 students and included members from every branch of the military — including a former Navy SEAL — and elite athletes in rowing, sailing, swimming, cycling, track and field and fencing.
Several were on their countries’ national team, including a Canadian Olympic medalist in rowing and an American Olympic medalist in swimming.
Michigan native Jamie Chapman was the just the kind elite athlete Tuck had in mind when she heard through word-of-mouth about the Next Step program.
A 2012 environment studies major at Dartmouth, Chapman began rowing during college before joining the U.S. National Rowing Team.
But by 2016, after years of intense focus on rowing to reach the top echelon in the sport, Chapman retired at 26.
“When I finished rowing, I honestly didn’t quite know what was out there in the big world, I definitely wanted to go into the business world but didn’t know what,” Chapman said. Moreover, she explained, becoming a world-class rower is “a very siloed experience. You’re operating at an extremely high level in one very specific thing, but that doesn’t necessarily translate well on a resume.”
Chapman said she enrolled in Next Step because she believed the introduction it would provide her in the basics of business would strengthen her hand with corporate recruiters.
And even though she was so eager to begin that she arrived “a weekend early” to stay with a friend before classes began, Chapman allows she was still “pretty shocked” when she had her first introduction to financial statements.
Fortunately, “the professor was incredible, he made it more accessible for everyone,” she said.
Within a month after Next Step, Chapman already was interviewing for jobs and later that spring had accepted an offer from Gemini, a bitcoin exchange in New York, where she now works in operations. She’s now weighing possibly returning to business school to earn her MBA.
“I’m totally sold,” Chapman said of her experience with Next Step and pursuing a career in business.
Indeed, several Next Step graduates have subsequently gone on to study for their MBA at leading business schools such as Wharton, NYU’s Stern School of Business as well as Georgetown and University of Southern California.
And that can be bittersweet for Tuck.
Hall, the professor who teaches microeconomics, tells how he had taken a class through a case study of how a software company decides to price a new product it is bringing to market and he handed out spreadsheets for the students “to play around with.”
“I skipped over a couple details in teaching the case,” Hall said, explaining the brevity required in the time allotted. “And at the end of the class this mountain of a guy came up to me and said ‘You know, you overlooked this.’ There are a handful like him who just blew me away.”
It turns out the student had “barely graduated” from high school before enlisting in the Navy, spending a decade as a Navy SEAL, and then later plowing through college in two years. He was now going on after Next Step to get his MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, one of Tuck’s chief rivals for students.
“I just wish we could have gotten this guy at Tuck,” Hall said.