Skip to main content

UT’s Haslam College of Business MBA Class of 2017 started the fall semester with twice as many military veterans as in previous years. Veterans now account for nearly 13 percent of the sixty-two-person class.

“As a group, veterans have a lot of leadership and management experience and often make very good students,” said Trent Thurman, executive director of the college’s graduate programs. “In some cases, they’ve led troops in battle, worked under extreme pressure, and learned valuable skills that certainly have business applications.”

UT’s full-time MBA Class of 2017
UT’s full-time MBA Class of 2017

Most of the incoming veterans are transitioning into civilian careers, while some plan to continue their military careers after earning their MBAs. Some of the increase may be due in part to the college’s decision to waive the GMAT test score requirement for veterans for the first time this year.

“We can see a lot more about their character based on their experiences rather than what a test score will show,” said Thurman.

Phil Montag, who was an United States Army helicopter pilot in Afghanistan after completing his bachelor’s degree at UT in 2009, applied to the Haslam MBA program as a bridge to a career in supply chain, analytics, or finance.

“The Army provided me the opportunity to grow as a leader and develop my soft skills,” said Montag. “The MBA is offering me a chance to polish those skills and make them marketable to leaders in business. It’s a veteran-friendly environment and everyone here makes the process of using the GI Bill as simple as possible.”

Tanya Cuprak, an active-duty coast guard officer, is in her second year of pursuing dual MBA and MS in industrial engineering degrees. She credits the MBA program with building her knowledge of business from the ground up.

“The curriculum is challenging, but the professors are incredibly helpful and truly interested in your success,” said Cuprak. “For the most part, veterans have the leadership and management skills they need to succeed. Almost every MBA assignment involves working with a team. You succeed or fail together.”

Chris Ruel, also a second-year MBA student, is specializing in entrepreneurship and innovation. He spent twelve years in active-duty service, including special forces, and owns the Prometheus Group, a personal security company.

“The military was all I had known in my adult life, so it naturally shaped my thought processes,” said Ruel. “I knew this MBA program would help shift my frame of reference and allow me to approach problems from a fresh perspective.”

UT was recently recognized for its strong support for veterans and their families in the 2017 U.S. News and World Report list of Best Colleges for Veterans. The university rose eighteen spots since last year to 31st among all public universities and 66th among all public and private colleges and universities.

In addition to an increased number of veterans, UT’s MBA class of 2017 has an average GMAT score of 627, an increase from the previous two years. Thirty-seven percent of the class is female and 31 percent come from outside the United States.


Gerhard Schneibel (865-974-2894,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,