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HBS Reacts to Student Soldiers' Needs Flexibility Plays Central Role;

At least four current Harvard MBA students are facing recalls to active military service as part of the United States’ war on terrorism, and HBS administrators are receiving high marks for their quick responses to the students’ needs.

Already, faculty and students had praised administrators for their initial reactions to the attacks-which included quickly canceling classes on September 11, and providing grief counseling, sponsoring discussion sessions and academic studies, and offering to match monetary donations raised by students for victims.

But even before those issues had faded, the early word of impending mobilization orders-the first student was told to expect a recall just a week after the attacks-forced HBS policy makers to revisit several long-standing rules to make sure that they did not have a negative impact on students.

According to Eileen Chung, associate director of admissions, 77 current MBA students served in the U.S. military prior to attending HBS. However, only a fraction of them are expected to face a recall to active duty that would force them to withdraw from the program.
An additional 37 international students list military backgrounds, bringing the total to about 7% of the school’s enrollment.
MBA Program Chair Carl Kester said students who are unable to finish the MBA program on schedule due to a recall will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. However, as the administration deals with the students who are facing imminent mobilization orders, a broad outline of its approach is emerging.

The school has offered to make a full term’s tuition refund to several students who are unable to complete a term due to a call-up, and then to allow the affected students to return to the program within five years.
In addition, the administration has apparently become sympathetic to the students’ desires to avoid having to repeat work they have already completed in the program, allowing them to “step back in” at the same point in the term that they leave.

Tucker Bailey (NB), a Naval counterintelligence officer who is expected to leave Allston before the end of the year, said that allowance will be crucial to the students’ ability to get on with their lives.
Bailey, who is facing a one-year call-up, said that it would be a major hardship if he is discharged next November, but unable to resume the MBA program until the Class of 2005 began its studies the following August. Both he and Section OJ President Greg Fairbank, who is expecting a recall to the Army, praised Registrar Coral Sullivan, the point person for most of their conversations.

“The adminstration has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Bailey said.
Fairbank also noted that Barbara Siegfriedt, the director of MBA student life, and Kelly Diamond, associate director, provided invaluable help, acting proactivley to anticipate issues that might arise and defusing them.

And After Graduation?
In addition to dealing with the pressing issues facing student who might have to interrupt their studies, Kester said the school is looking forward to the possibility that the attacks may prompt changes in some students’ career paths.

If more HBS graduates choose to go into public service, either in the military, or in other governmental jobs, they may become eligible for the school’s loan-forgiveness plan, which provides annual grants to graduates working for governments or nonprofit organizations, foreign or domestic.
The program provides full loan repayment assistance for students who earn less than $40,000 per year, and partial grants on a sliding scale for students making more. The grants can extend for up to 10 years after graduation, and a graduate can apply for the program at any time during those 10 years.

The program, which was instituted in 1992, is administered by the MBA financial aid office and the HBS Initiative on Social Enterprise.
Military service was already included in the list of qualifying positions, so administrators do not believe major changes will be necessary to accommodate graduates who are recalled to duty, or who take posts in agencies like the new Office of Homeland Security. However, they anticipate that the increased urgency of those roles may prompt more MBA graduates to follow nontraditional career paths, and therefore increase demand for the program.

October 29, 2001
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