Portland Veterans Event Pays It Forward

Members of the region's veterans' community headed to the Lundquist College of Business's Portland facility last November to attend an event custom designed for them and their families. 

A collaborative effort of the college's Portland-based graduate programs—the Oregon Executive MBA and UO Sports Product Management—the evening brought together representatives from a wide range of veteran-focused organizations, including the National Association for Black VeteransPartners in CareersPortland Vet CenterUniversity of Oregon Veterans Affairs Office, and UO College of of Design.

“Our goal was to make it more convenient for veterans and their families to get the information they need. It's our way of paying it forward and thanking this community for everything they've done for our country," said Shelly Gourlay, director of the UO Sports Product Management graduate programs.

Gathering a range of resources into a central location on a single evening made the event particularly useful for veterans and their families. 

“In my work with the veteran community, I see lots of great non-profits that are eager to serve. The challenge is getting the word out and connecting them with the right audience," said Jeff Lindquist, MBA '21, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who is the director and cofounder of TEAM Argonaut.

At the core of the event was a panel featuring Lindquist—a current student at the Oregon Executive MBA—and three other UO Portland graduate programs alumni who are also veterans. Jenifer Fendelander, veterans benefits coordinator at the UO Office of the Registrar, came to Portland from Eugene to moderate the panel and provide her expertise in helping veterans and their spouses make the most of their education benefits. 

During the panel, Lindquist talked about his experience in his first year of the executive MBA program. U.S. Air Force veteran Aaron Larsen, MBA '19, described his own experience in the 20-month program and how it has benefited his professional life. UO Sports Product Management alumnus David Parkinson—who served in the U.S. Air Force—discussed how the program prepared him for his current role as director of products at gym equipment manufacturer Core Health and Fitness. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ethan Rocke, who earned his master's degree in multimedia journalism at the UO School of Journalism and Communication's Portland location, shared the ways his degree prepared him for both running his own media business as well as his concurrent communications role at Pioneer Utility Resources.

“Earning a graduate degree can give veterans the tools to make the most of their skills and experience after they've left the military. And for those who are still serving, an advanced degree can help as they continue to move up the ranks," said Lundquist College of Business—Portland executive director Ellen Schmidt-Devlin, who recently earned her PhD at Case Western Reserve University.  

While veterans certainly benefit from earning their graduate degrees, they also bring a lot to the classroom setting.

“More than 10 percent of our current students have served in the military, and I've seen for myself the high level of their contributions in and out of the classroom. Leadership, grace under pressure, and a wealth of transferable knowledge—these are just a few of the qualities I see in our veteran students. It's a group that stands out even in a program like the Oregon Executive MBA, where every student enters already equipped with a great deal of professional experience," said Paul Allen, associate director of executive admissions at the Oregon Executive MBA.

Before and after the panel, there was plenty of time for attendees to catch up with old friends, make new connections, and learn more about the participating organizations. 

With November's event a rousing success, the plan is to make the open house an annual event, hosted in partnership with a majority of UO Portland's graduate programs.

“This event is just as much about potential as it is about past accomplishments. We're proud to honor what veterans have already achieved—and we're excited about what they can accomplish in the future," said Rachel Todd,  director of the Oregon Executive MBA.

Many thanks to the evening's panelists: Aaron Larsen, MBA '19; Jeff Lindquist, MBA '21; Ethan Rocke, MS '14; and David Parkinson, MS '18, as well as all the organizations that participated.