Baker Program Highlights Students with Military Experience

January 20, 2015

Since its founding, the Baker Program in Real Estate has taken pride in what it offers to veterans of the U.S. Military. In 2014-15, four veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces are enrolled at Baker – Evan Smith (Air Force, MSRE/MBA ’15), Matthew Gottlieb (Navy, MSRE ’15), Jonathan Plundo (Army, MSRE/MBA ’17), and Scott Guo (Army, MSRE/MBA ’17).  Two veterans of the Korean Armed Forces are also enrolled at Baker – Jaeho Lee (MSRE ’15) and Hwang Duk Kim (MSRE ’16). Whether U.S. Military or Foreign Armed Forces, Baker is eager to have applicants with military backgrounds, as their leadership training and track record of success truly enhances a class.

Smith graduated from Samford University in 2008. He was commissioned into the United States Air Force, and had his first assignment at the Hill Air Force Base in Utah where he served as an Acquisitions Program Manager. Regarding how the Air Force prepared him for Cornell, Smith reflected, “military service, especially if you are an officer, prepares you to lead. My leadership experiences in the military have been hugely beneficial in my ability to efficiently take charge of a situation, influence others, and get things done. You also learn to deal with uncertainty and stress, while keeping a clear mind to make decisions. This will prove invaluable as I move into a career in real estate development.”

Navy veteran Gottlieb agrees with Smith’s assessment, adding that “my military career greatly helped me in terms of leadership and taking responsibility, which is very important in real estate. Most retired military veterans draw pensions and/or work in a similar capacity for government contractors, but the skills are applicable to whatever you choose as a second career.”

Army veterans Plundo and Guo both matriculated to Baker in 2014 after leaving active duty, each with the rank of Captain. Plundo, a West Point graduate, served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan where he was responsible for commanding field artillery batteries, assuming responsibility for the safety and well-being of over 800 military and civilian personnel who lived and worked on the nearby base. Guo led two 30-man infantry platoons in Iraq in 2010 and 2011. He later spent time in Asia where he led training exercises between units of the U.S. Army and the armies of Korea and Malaysia. Guo’s military achievements were capped off with completion of the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Program (better known as the Green Berets).

Plundo observed that the reality of always juggling multiple priorities and the need to consider how every decision will affect the needs of many different groups is applicable to business school. He said that “the first thing you learn is to be prepared for anything. When something unexpected happens, you assess the situation, make decisions to adjust and go with it. In a rigorous academic program such as Baker, you have to make those decisions in order to focus on what is important.”