Stepping Up to Serve: Five Ways Baylor MBA Programs Support Military Students
A Navy reservist and Online MBA (OMBA) program leader reflect on the unique needs and contributions of Baylor’s military students.
In 2011, Akeela Abdul Jabbar walked into a Navy recruiting station in Manhattan and never looked back.
A native of Grenada, a picturesque island in the Caribbean, Akeela had earned an undergraduate degree in management and accounting before working as an auditor for several years.
“I aspired to serve the U.S., a place that eventually became like a second home to me," she said. "A military career presented a chance to engage in meaningful work. The Navy's commitment to hands-on experience and its array of benefits convinced me that this was the path I wanted to take.”
Veterans, reservists and active-duty military members like Akeela comprise close to 25 percent of Baylor’s OMBA class—a true family within a family.
Below, Akeela teams up with David Coe, director of operations for the OMBA program, to offer a perspective on how Baylor supports its military students.
1. A new community of belonging
There is no replicating the camaraderie of a military unit, but Baylor’s MBA students are relieved to discover a similarly tight-knit community.
“The connections I've forged with fellow students have been truly invaluable," Akeela said. "Much like in the military, we come together in smaller teams, collaborating to achieve a shared objective.”
David recalls a recent conversation with an OMBA student who met one of his closest friends, a fellow veteran, through a group project.
“Our military students quickly realize that there is a feeling of belonging that is waiting for them here,” David said.
2. Spiritual, mental and relational care
Like all students, military students enter the OMBA program in need of support that goes beyond their academic and logistical needs to care for their whole person. The Hankamer School of Business’s resident chaplain stands ready to offer guidance and encouragement, and students can also access mental health counseling free of charge.
One of the things that immediately impressed Akeela about the OMBA program, which she joined in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, was the personal outreach she experienced.
“There was a program staffer who called me almost every week to find out how I was doing and what kind of support I needed,” Akeela said. “This person did not know me personally, but they went above and beyond to be there for me.”
3. Assistance in navigating educational benefits
Baylor’s VA Benefits Team assists active-duty service members, veterans and their eligible dependents and spouses in obtaining the educational benefits they have earned under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Team members also act as a liaison to the regional VA office to process enrollment certifications.
For Akeela, the GI bill helped make an MBA program feasible. As she prepares to embark on the next chapter of her career as a Navy reservist and entrepreneur—the owner of a photography studio and a pizza franchise—she is grateful for the opportunity to move forward without a substantial debt burden.
4. Tools to make a career transition
In David’s experience, military students are fearless achievers with a well-honed set of leadership and communication skills.
“When there is a goal or a project to be delivered, they are uniquely gifted at mapping out a plan to achieve it and understanding who does what,” he said.
But while military students bring a valuable set of skills to a wide variety of industries and functions, they often need support to move into a civilian environment that is less structured, hierarchical and command-driven. From interview practice to practical guidance in how to convert a military resume to a civilian resume, the Baylor University Career Center helps students translate the skills they have developed into a different context.
5. Flexibility to accommodate continued service
All courses are offered twice a year, so taking a term or two off does not require a student to wait a full year for a course to come around again. Students also have up to five years to complete the OMBA. This flexibility allows students who are deployed or undergoing training to move in and out of the program as needed and still complete the degree on time.
After transitioning from active-duty service to the Navy Reserves in 2020, Akeela was selected to become an officer. Not long after beginning the OMBA program, she was able to pause her education for eight months to complete officer training.
Baylor offers a wide range of support to military students, but military students offer even more to the community they join.
“They bring such a diversity of perspectives and skills into the classroom,” David said. “The bottom line is that we would not be who we are without our military students.”
Are you an active or former military member looking for a supportive educational community? Click here to learn more about Baylor’s MBA programs or fill out the Ask for Information form to speak directly with an admissions advisor.