The Foster Veterans Association (FVA) is a club that any MBA student can join, but it seeks to bring together the Veteran community – currently around 9% of the Full-time MBA students.
“Almost every veteran in the club is looking to go into business for the first time. Most of us went from college directly into the military, and then directly into an MBA program, so the idea of entering the business world for the first time while simultaneously pushing or even exceeding the age of 30 can be a little intimidating,” said Dave Marx, the outgoing President of the Foster Veterans Association. Originally from Orlando, FL Dave spent the eight years prior to joining Foster as a Field Artillery Officer in the U.S. Army. Post-Foster, he will be working for Harris Williams Investment Bank in Richmond, VA.
In this feature, Dave shared his insights on leading the club and advice for prospective members.
Please tell us about your experience being a Veteran MBA student, and with the Foster Veterans’ Association.
One of the unique things about being a veteran in an MBA program is that the veteran brotherhood runs deep throughout the recruiting process. Vets are very keen to help each other out. When I was recruiting with different banks, the first thing I would do would be to look for the vets that currently work there. They would be my first point of contact because I knew that nine out of ten times I was going to get a response and get a good connection. For any veterans looking to recruit, unless Foster has a perfect pipeline for that particular company, absolutely use the vets channel.
The FVA club was founded in 2013 by Eddie Hwang, a Marine Corps Veteran himself. A few years later, Eddie passed away from aplastic anemia. The big event for the FVA every year is the Eddie Hwang Leadership Dinner. This event is in Eddie’s honor. We bring in veterans from all the MBA programs, alumni, and this year we even had some of Eddie’s family attend. It is a great event and it’s also our last event of the year. This year the event brought together 47 people! We also started taking part in the Seattle Veterans Leadership Forum which is a joint effort between Foster and the Law School. In this forum, we get to hear and have a discussion with veteran business leaders in the Seattle area, and then sit down to a nice private dinner afterward. This was the inaugural year for this and it has been a huge success.
What have you learned about leadership while in this role?
Being the leader of the club, the biggest thing is to use the resources available – most importantly the other club members. This is a club for all veterans and any other students who want to join. It is my job to enable the club’s success and to steer its momentum, not to run it myself.
What is your favorite memory of the FVA?
My favorite memory with the club was attending the MBA Veterans Conference in Dallas during my first quarter at Foster. I really got to know my Veteran classmates over that weekend. We had a great time and we alluded to it many times throughout the rest of our time at Foster.
How have you worked with other clubs to provide networking opportunities?
We partnered with a few clubs such as Huddle throughout the year for seminars and tailgates. We’re always looking to do more!
What were your expectations and intentions as you took on the role? Did your experience line up? What has been enjoyable? Challenging? Surprising?
My expectations when taking the role were that the club was going to do a lot of activities throughout the year and also have a lot of involvement from all club members. While the club no doubt improved year-over-year, it didn’t have a ton of events and could have used some more help along the way. But also, the second year isn’t just a walk in the park academically, we all stayed busy with school on top of club events. Overall though the experience was very enjoyable. It was great getting involved and it was also great getting the alumni involved.
What tips do you have for incoming MBA students as to why they should join the FVA?
For non-vets, I would recommend joining the FVA because you will get to know a part of the population that you may not have had much previous interaction with. Though the vets don’t typically bring in tons of business experience to an MBA program, they can still be a huge value-add to any team. Skills such as communication, planning, reacting under stress, and managing a team are just some of the many skills veteran MBA students bring to the program….and also plenty of crazy stories.