Andy Blevins is a first-year JD/MBA at Willamette University’s Atkinson School of Management.
Can you tell us a bit about your career background and what you’re doing now?
I served as a Cryptologic Technician while in the Navy and decided, as exciting as that was I wanted to get as far away from it as possible when choosing my civilian career; so, I applied to work at the White House. I worked for the Office of the First Lady for some time, before leaving and getting some solid experience with a few national nonprofits, focused in advocating for the LGBT military community. I quickly learned if I wanted my career to progress on the trajectory I intended, I needed to go back to school. Currently, I am enrolled in Willamette University’s JD/MBA joint degree program, with focuses in civil rights, military/veteran, and business law.
What made you decide to shift from serving your country to the business world?
While I am no longer in the military, I have decided to dedicate my professional career to serving those that are. I currently work for the legal department of OutServe-SLDN, an organization that provides pro-bono legal services for LGBTQ military veterans, service members, and their families. I would like to continue focusing on this demographic after graduation. Many military families are opening their own businesses to supplement the income the receive from the DoD. Pursuing my MBA in tandem with my JD seemed like the best solution to ensure I had the requisite knowledge in my toolbox to consult and advocate for my clients in all aspects of their lives. Additionally, I am finding the skills I am acquiring in this program will be extremely beneficial when the time comes for me to lead a legal department or practice of my own.
Were you out as you went through the business school application process?
I was out during my application process. Currently, I am one of two “out” students at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management. In an effort to make AGSM more inclusive and welcoming to queer students, the two of us are in the process of founding a genders and sexualities alliance open to queer-identified students and allies.
Tell us a bit about being a member of the LGBTQ community while serving your country. Did DADT impact your experience?
I can think of nothing I have done that I am more proud of than serving my country. My story is not much different than others’. I joined the military out of high school and came to terms with my sexual orientation while on active duty. Coming out of the closet is an intense experience for most already; being unable to confide in, or ask questions of, anyone only enhanced that experience. I actually ended up trying to go through a conversion therapy program at my local church — it didn’t work. So, I continued hiding a crucial part of my identity so I could continue serving. Thinking back, I think the most difficult part of doing so was knowing that the country that I loved and I vowed to protect did not think I was worthy enough to do so. I took extreme precautions to ensure that “gay Andy” and “military Andy” never crossed paths — two cellphones, two PO boxes, distant relations with peers in my unit. Many times I contemplated “telling,” but I could not reconcile putting myself above the the duty I owed to my country. I am grateful that LGB and now T folks throughout the country can serve this great nation without having to go through those same experiences.
The comment has been made that as the US Armed Forces go [in terms of policy], so goes the rest of the nation. With the repeal of DADT, how do you think the culture of the Armed Forces has changed? How do you think the culture of the country has changed?
Still working with members of the military, I have seen first hand how the culture with the DoD has changed for the better. Service members no longer have to compromise their personal integrity by lying to serve the country they love so dearly. Units are being pulled closer together because service members are choosing to confide in each other. Respect for all is skyrocketing because we are acknowledging the idiosyncrasies that make up each of our service members. There is still work to be done, but I am proud to see the positive manifestations of changes that have been made culturally and politically.
What did/does your veteran status bring to your MBA experience?
Serving in the military gave me many opportunities to serve in a leadership capacity, which impressed on me many of the skills we see in the MBA program. As a veteran, I am able to bring a perspective to the conversation that most of my peers do not have experience with. This platform also gives me the opportunity to talk about how veteran employees think and operate differently than their non-veteran counterparts, which has become particularly important as we learn about different managerial styles.
What advice would you give to someone currently serving their country who is considering pursuing a MBA?
The MBA is one of the most universally applicable graduate degrees you can pursue. As I mentioned, serving in the military has given you the leadership experience that companies are looking to include in their pool of employees. The MBA can help you enhance and refine those schools, making you the very best version of YOU, possible. I strongly encourage all veterans to apply for their MBA. If you want to talk about it some more, shoot me an email!