LGBTQ VETERANS AS MBAS: EMILY MILLER – MBA, HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL ’15
Name: Emily Miller School: Harvard Business School Year of Grad: 2015 Undergrad: US Military Academy at West Point, 2008 Mid-MBA Internship: Eli Lilly & Co
Tell us a bit about your background, prior work experience and career interests I’m originally from a small town in southern Indiana and went to West Point immediately following high school. Upon graduation I commissioned as an engineer officer stationed out of Ft. Lewis, Washington. I deployed once to Iraq as a platoon leader spearheading reconstruction efforts in Basra, Iraq, and then deployed twice to Afghanistan embedded with 75th Ranger Regiment and other special operations units. Now I’m looking into marketing and brand management for my full-time job. What made you decide to get your MBA? Many veterans find the transition to civilian life tough – a lot of us (myself included) still don’t know what we want to do following our time in service. The business world felt like a scary place with an overwhelming amount of options. An MBA has equipped me with the knowledge, resources, and networks necessary to make a solid transition into my next full-time venture. Were you out as you went through the business school application process? If so, in what ways? If not, at what point upon entering did you decide to come out? I was definitely out in my application. I spent a significant amount of time in the Army working to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). It was a cause I was very passionate about, so I included my non-profit experience in my resume and also discussed my experiences in the interview. It was a very transformative period in my life and it played a big role in shaping who I am today – all important things when trying to add dimension to your application. Tell us a bit about your involvement with the LGBTQ and Ally communities on your campus. Are you particularly active? I’m currently one of the co-presidents of our LGBT Student Association and work closely with the Allies club at HBS. Both clubs are extremely active – so far this year we’ve hosted a Diversity Career Fair, celebrated National Coming Out Day with a campus-wide photo campaign, kicked off our first mentorship program with LGBTQ undergraduate students at Harvard, and we’re currently planning our Pan-Harvard LGBTQ Conference. We’re also celebrating Transgender Awareness Month with our first Trans 101 Training and panel with some of our HBS staff/faculty. It’s a great community to be involved in! Can you tell us a bit about your experience as being a member of the LGBTQ community while serving your country. How did DADT impact you (if at all) during your experience? How did culture change after it’s repeal? I came back from my deployment to Iraq in 2009 determined to get involved in any way possible. I reached out to a West Point alumni organization, Knights Out, and volunteered my time and energy. I wrote anonymous articles in the New York Times, spoke on National Public Radio, participated in the HBO documentary The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and worked to rally LGBTQ service members in underground networks. It was such an incredible movement. Once DADT was repealed, it was a lesson in authentic leadership for me – how to bring my true self to work despite stereotypes and prejudices. It took a lot of courage to come out to my unit, but I was amazed at how quickly people opened up to me and expressed their support. Being authentic and present as an openly gay officer was the best way I could educate my soldiers and fellow officers, and change our culture one relationship at a time. The comment has been made that as the us armed forces go [in terms of policy] so goes the rest of the nation. Do you think the repeal of DADT set us up for a lot of the progress we’ve been seeing in terms of national LGBTQ issues over the past 2 years? Absolutely, I do. I can’t say that it was all DADT, but I do think it gave us significant momentum in the years that followed. It set the right precedent at the federal level. That being said, we’ve still got a ways to go. DADT didn’t eliminate discrimination against our trans brothers and sisters, so we can’t forget the movement’s not over. What made you decide to shift from serving your country to the business world? Ultimately I felt that I could make a bigger impact on the world through business. I wanted more freedom and autonomy to pursue my dreams. Do you think veterans bring something extra to the MBA experience? What about LGBTQ MBAs? For sure. I think veterans have a unique perspective on what it means to lead in ambiguous and challenging situations. We might not know how to build out a pro forma right away, but we do know what it takes to intrinsically motivate people and work together to accomplish a higher task. From my experience, veterans really tend to bring people together as a team in the classroom. What about LGBTQ MBAs? Most definitely. I’ve learned so much from my LGBTQ classmates – the incredible breadth of experiences, backgrounds, nationalities, and professions all combine to make for a wonderfully diverse group of people. LGBTQ MBAs bring such a unique voice to the classroom and business world – I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to share your story with others. What advice do you have for LGBTQs currently serving their country that might one day consider going to graduate school of an MBA or business masters degree? When the time comes to leave the service and pursue your degree, lean heavily on the veterans who have gone before you – they’ll support you in ways you never thought possible. And when you do get in to your dream school, pay it forward to the next generation!