As the nation celebrates the men and women of the military, UVA Engineering’s Accelerated Master’s Program in Systems Engineering has the privilege of serving a number of veterans and active-duty personnel. We spoke to some of them about their experiences and the program’s impact on their careers and lives.
Korey O. Mitchell
Korey O. Mitchell graduated from the U.S. Military Academy with a B.S. in Management-Systems Engineering track of study. He served in the U.S. Army from 1992 to 2014, retiring as a lieutenant colonel and assistant deputy director for operations – Pentagon, Joint Staff J3 (Operations). In that role, he served as an operations officer in the National Joint Operations and Intelligence Center of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A Cincinnati native, Mitchell currently works as a deputy program manager for Leidos at Fort Meade, Md.
The main reason I chose to enroll in AMP was my desire to continue learning and further develop my skills as a problem solver. In addition, I have an M.A. in Management and Leadership, and wanted to obtain a technical Master’s degree.
The interaction with other professionals from various sectors of industry enables building relationships and learning from other students in the cohort. This degree will provide the technical and analytical skills required to become a valued member of the technical workforce.
I believe my military experience offers a unique perspective to the AMP cohort. My two combat tours in Iraq required maneuvering a dynamic battlefield and dealing with unconventional problem sets in a stressful environment on a daily basis. I believe the military is the world’s greatest problem solving classroom. In the military, you develop the acumen for quickly assessing and processing information to develop a solution. Some of the training is formal, but a majority of the training is on-the-job. I’ve applied many of the skills I obtained during my military experience to my current job as a Department of Defense contractor and as a member of the AMP cohort.
The principles I followed during my military career as well as during my time in AMP are: treat everyone with respect, be a team player, be humble, be a good listener, be an active participant and have fun. I believe these principles are essential to developing a strong and cohesive team. My involvement with the AMP cohort has fueled my desire to impart the principles of teamwork in whatever organization I’m involved with in the future.
Aside from the world-class education and talented professors from both the UVA Engineering and business schools, the value in the AMP at UVA is the cohort. The relationships formed and knowledge gained from fellow members of your cohort is invaluable.
MAJ David Little
A native of Oceanside, Ca., MAJ David Little graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2002 with a B.S. in General Management. He has served as an active duty member of the U.S. Army since 2002. In his current position as the executive officer for the MDA director of the Missile Defense Agency, Little works on an executive management team to assist the director in coordinating and planning multiple large scale acquisition projects, by reviewing acquisition briefings, general correspondence, policies and directives, and providing substantive review of all staff work concerning the development, testing and fielding of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System for the director’s approval.
I haven’t always known I wanted to pursue a degree in systems engineering, but after thorough research, combined with some of my recent professional experiences, I determined this degree was the right path for me to continue my development. I have previous degrees in management and leadership and I wanted to challenge myself with a more technical engineering degree. The one-year cohort format on grounds at UVA’s Darden School of Business was very attractive to me.
It will provide an unparalleled opportunity to achieve my goals and the prospect to learn from established professors and colleagues with different professional backgrounds at a top-rated university. This program will build my technical knowledge to enhance my analytic, problem solving and communication skills. The curriculum integrates several disciplines, including Systems Thinking, Information Systems and Evidence-Based Decision Analytics, and is focused on problem-solving. These are skill sets I know I will use throughout my career. I also believe it will open doors for me that would have previously been shut.
I have had the opportunity to learn the basics of the Department of Defense’s systems engineering and acquisitions processes, and it stoked my interest in these arenas. My goal with the UVA AMP Program is to learn the application of systemic engineering to solve problems and develop solutions. I currently work for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), a strategically critical DOD organization, steeped in system engineering and acquisitions processes. My experience there has provided me with insight to these processes, and I routinely interface with MDA’s Engineering Directorate and I am thoroughly impressed with the work they do. Additionally, I’ve learned how the military conducts critical interactions with senior-level executives and lawmakers to make critical decisions, often based on analytical data derived from its internal systems engineering processes.
The Army has instilled great values in me, including loyalty, duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity and personal courage. Additionally, the Army encourages us to be lifelong learners who are mentally agile, exercise sound judgment and are innovative. The AMP program will build on this, which will enable me to contribute to the nation and to industry in an impactful way.
The AMP program has been exceptionally rewarding both personally and professionally. It has challenged me, but I’ve developed my advanced quantitative skills and critical thinking, and I’ve found that it has equally cultivated professional fellowship among the cohort. The program is remarkably managed with excellent professors and facilities. The format is perfect for a working professional. I highly recommend AMP to anyone looking to advance their technical and analytical skill sets and to further build their professional network. I’m excited about the opportunities to come.
Capt. Michael Moran
Capt. Michael Moran has served in the U.S. Air Force since 2000. The Buffalo, N.Y. native graduated from Syracuse University in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and earned a Master’s degree in electrical engineering from Wright State University in 2014. Capt. Moran currently serves as Test Director for Advanced Technologies and Intelligence, DIA, for the U.S. Air Force in Charlottesville.
The curriculum and staff of the AMP looked spectacular. I wanted to continue my studies outside electrical engineering to broaden my skill set. AMP covered almost all of the topics I was interested in, and many more I didn’t know I needed.
The program has had an immediate impact on my career. I have been able to apply lessons learned in every class to my work day. As the director of a test team, no two days are the same. We have to design tools and applications to plan and execute tests, complete data analysis and report the findings. At this time, we have completed four classes and I have used techniques from each to make our organization and my team more successful and more efficient at testing. The faculty teach in a manner that applies realistic situations and allows the student to take ownership of the lessons and use the new skills on their own.
Time management for this program is very difficult. The program is very demanding and you get out of it what you put in. All of your peers in class work very hard and you feel accountable to the team to work as hard as you can. My military career has enabled me to work with a group more effectively and manage time to be able to complete the highly demanding work load.
I have begun to teach my peers statistical analysis lessons learned to conduct data analysis. Our engineers look at a variety of topics and projects for the Department of Defense. My vision is to have an immediate impact on the quality of products that are being produced. I believe it will have save the tax payers money by taking less time to finish a report and providing better information to make decisions. Through this process, I also believe people will see the benefit of AMP.
Plan and prepare. The course is very demanding of you and your family. It is an absolutely great program with outstanding faculty. Make it a little easier on yourself and prepare ahead of time. Embrace the cohort – it’s much easier with a group and way more fun.
MAJ David Pierce
MAJ David Pierce graduated from the U.S. Military Academy with a B.S. in electrical engineering. Originally from Huntsville, Al., he currently serves in the U.S. Army and is stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va.
I found the AMP program while looking online for engineering programs in the Virginia area.
I was looking for a program that would allow me to continue my career while providing a challenging education with an excellent reputation. I decided to enroll in AMP based on how well the curriculum supported my career objectives and due the program’s one-year duration.
I originally expected to benefit most from the academic knowledge gained. Since attending, I’ve discovered that an equal benefit to my career is the collaboration with a cohort consisting of students having a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds.
In the military, it is critical to develop teamwork and cohesion when working to achieve a common goal. This carries over well when participating in a program developed around a cohort structure.
The military, AMP and systems engineering all focus heavily on identifying, solving and then implementing solutions to problems. A proper application of the lessons learned will benefit others. Having only been attending AMP for six months, I’ve already had the opportunity to implement the lessons learned in job.
If you are looking for a challenging education built on group learning and feasible for working professionals, I’d highly recommend AMP at UVA Engineering.
CBS-19 also featured UVA Engineering’s Accelerated Master’s Program service members. Click here to watch the story.