Foster Futures: Christian Merz

Chris Merz

Chris Merz (MBA 2018) came to Foster a military veteran, with advanced experience leading in extremis over his decade-long career. After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy, he served as an infantry officer in the Army Rangers, deploying to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.

But the transition from the military to a corporate career can be tricky to navigate. In this, Foster has provided a platform for success. Merz leads the Consulting Society, serves on the board of the Outdoor and Sports Industry Club, and is an MBA Peer Advisor. And, not surprisingly, he’s also deeply engaged in the Foster Veterans Association, working to help others over the wall.

His curricular and extracurricular experiences gelled last summer in his internship with McKinsey & Company, where he advised a large healthcare provider as it launched new growth initiatives.

“I discovered what a special place McKinsey is,” Merz says. “Much like my time at Foster, I worked closely with incredibly talented and smart people who constantly pushed my thinking and encouraged me to grow.”

He liked it so much, in fact, he’ll return to McKinsey after graduation to launch his second career.

But part of his heart will always belong in the military; he continues to advise Steel Hearts, the non-profit he co-founded before starting business school to support families of fallen West Point graduates.

More about Chris:

What has been your most impactful experience at Foster?

Professor Christina Fong’s message about cultivating and maintaining a growth mindset laid the foundation for my personal and professional development. Her lecture during our first month of the MBA shifted my perspective and has proved to be one of the most important lessons I’ve experienced in business school thus far.

Merz in his days with the U.S. Army Rangers.

How are you leveraging your Foster experience to achieve your career goals?

The MBA program at Foster allows you to create your own curriculum of electives in your second year, and I’ve taken advantage of that optionality to pursue topics that really interest me. I’ve focused many of my courses in data mining techniques for business and marketing, and I’m hoping these experiences will position me well as digitization and the data revolution continue to reinvent industries.

What aspect of Foster’s culture do you believe will prove particularly valuable in your career?

Teamwork and cooperative problem solving are two key skills that Foster’s culture reinforces, and I think being immersed in this environment will serve me well in the future.

Do you have a favorite class?

Professor Lance Young’s Entrepreneurial Finance is an amazing class. His case study method not only reinforces core financial skills, but also challenges your ability to make decisions in ambiguous situations. Lance expects a lot of preparation and work from his students, but the richness and depth of discussion in the classroom make it all worth it.

What do you like to do for fun?

For hobbies, I like to rock climb and ski. I also enjoy mountaineering and have climbed several peaks in the Cascades and New Zealand.

What is a “fun fact” about you?

My wife bought me a coffee roasting machine for my birthday three years ago, and I now enjoy roasting my own coffee. I also set off the fire alarm the first time I tried to roast coffee… lesson learned!

Foster Futures is a series highlighting some of the students who are leading the Foster School into its second century—and themselves into promising careers. The series began in the winter issue of Foster Business magazine.