2016 Best EMBAs: Major Patrick Henson, Emory University (Goizueta)

Patrick Henson EmoryMajor Patrick Henson

Emory University, Goizueta Business School (GBS)

“Pat is a super high performer on his job and in his executive MBA studies. He straightaway stood out amongst his classmates, and quickly established himself as one of the brightest students we’ve had in our program. I came to expect excellence in all aspects of Pat’s work, and I am happy to say that he always lived up to my high expectations of him. He combines intelligence and diligence with excellent communication skills. I was particularly impressed by his ability to think on his feet, and his often-intuitive grasp of the material.”

Age: 33

Location: Columbus, GA

Family Members: Meegan (wife)

Undergraduate School: United States Military Academy

Degree: Bachelor of Science, History

Where are you currently working? Fort Benning, US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. I am a Major in the Acquisition Corps (Program Manager), serving as a military analyst for future concepts. My focus area in this role has been the integration of DoD Lab efforts for, and experimentation of, robotics as they are fielded into our warfighting organizations.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: Academically, named to the Emory GBS Dean’s List 2014-2015. I have also been involved with the Goizueta Veterans Association, integrating some of the activities and resources we have at Fort Benning into our program for my classmates. As an example, the GBS Leader Development Program has been able to bring students from across Goizueta’s MBA offerings to Fort Benning as an extension of the classroom. During these quarterly events, students work in their respective teams as they go through the Fort Benning Leader Reaction Course. This course is very much like a confidence or ropes course, but allows a great opportunity for team building and innovative thinking outside of the classroom. It has also been a great way to share with my classmates my work environment and feel like I am helping to bridge between classroom and personal relationships — sharing my experience as an Army officer with my civilian classmates and peers.

During my time at Goizueta, I was also a part of the Homes For Our Troops charity organization. I raised money and awareness for the organization that builds and modifies houses for severely wounded service members who are transitioning away from the military after going through long-term rehabilitation.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being in the top 10% of our class at Goizueta and being named to the GBS Dean’s List. Specific grades were actually not a goal at the start of our program. Coming from my background in the Army, I was worried about being behind other students coming from financial or accounting backgrounds, since I have had such little exposure to those topics. I really made my goal to work as hard as possible and make the most out of the opportunity each class offered. I was very fortunate to have some remarkable teammates early on in the program to whom much of my academic success can be attributed.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The most important period of growth I have had professionally was my 15-month deployment to Baghdad in 2007-2008. I have had some great successes following this time, but that first deployment really laid the foundation for the jobs and any success that came after it. Prior to that, I knew that hard work and being a teammate was important, but I left that experience with a bigger respect for both of those attributes. I was still a young officer at the time and in charge of a platoon of soldiers during the troop surge, which was a very violent period of the war. My unit was one of many that partnered with the Iraqi Army and local police while living much of the deployment in a small outpost in the part of the city we were responsible for helping to secure.

This experience was difficult at times, but was also a tremendous education in leadership, teamwork and shared perseverance through challenges. Having a great deal of responsibility less than two years removed from college really forced me to grow quickly. I think any veteran would say that a deployment changes you — in some ways that are better, and in some ways where you see areas that you need to work on, especially with prioritizing what is truly important like family and relationships. Many of us received personal recognition during and after that deployment, but I am most proud of our organization, of the way that we came together as a team over those 15 months, and of the things that many of my soldiers and friends from that deployment have gone on to do. It is humbling to look back at that group of people from that period of my life and see the amazing things that came out of that organization. Some of my soldiers have now gone on to finish degrees or become leaders in the military, and some of my best friends have gone on to amazing professional accomplishments. That shared experience we had really was a foundation for great personal growth for many of us.

Favorite MBA Courses? Decision and Information Analysis with Dr. Steve Stuk. This course gave me a foundation in analytical modeling and decision making. I was later able to grow my experience with these skills in my independent study (advised by Dr. Tom Smith), which produced a model used at Fort Benning to build better groupings of students for officer education courses. We took this course during our first semester and I immediately knew I was in the right place at GBS. This type of analytical and critical thinking was exactly what I was hoping to find in an MBA program. Finding a way to match some of the skills I was learning at Goizueta with real problems I was working on at my office was one of the most rewarding parts of this program.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Both my wife and I had a desire to go back to school as a professional challenge to ourselves and to broaden our foundational knowledge beyond that of the Army’s officer education system. Given our line of work, an MBA is a great fit for mid-level managers hoping to move up to roles with greater responsibility. Being geographically situated directly between Auburn, AL and Atlanta gave us some terrific program options, but Goizueta really stood out and was a great fit for us both.

In making this decision, we wanted to find a school which offered a rigorous academic challenge with top notch professors, along with a strong peer network. We also looked for a program which consisted primarily of in class interaction with our instructors. We also found that Goizueta really valued our experience as Army officers. GBS has done an amazing job of integrating veterans and military service members and allowed us an opportunity to share our experiences with classmates. My wife is a Medical Service Corps officer and the combination of Goizueta’s concentration areas with the Emory Health Care education system was also a great opportunity for her program of study.

What did you enjoy most about business school? It was definitely the new relationships that developed with my classmates, who come from such diverse backgrounds. In the military, I am accustomed to being around a large group of peers working toward the same or similar goals. It has always been easy for me to find friends in this environment of shared experiences and goals. In my current assignment, I am not in a traditional operational unit and it wasn’t until I began this program that I saw just how much I missed the camaraderie that goes along with that. At Goizueta, I have gone through this challenge and experience with a group of peers and friends who are all highly qualified and bring such different perspectives and strengths to our class. The relationships that my wife and I made over the past two years are some that we consider life-long friendships just as strong as any we made in the Army. When we were both promoted last fall, we actually had our promotion party with the class in Atlanta, as these classmates have become some of our best friends. It was really cool for us to share that big moment with our GBS teammates.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? My wife and I were still able to have fun and be somewhat “normal” during this program. Before any program like this starts, you hear from students and teachers about the time commitment that you are signing up for (20-30 hours a week was a typical response when we would ask). This part is true. We did spend most weekends either on campus or studying. What you will quickly find, however, is there can still be time for the things that are most important to you.

My wife and I worked really hard at establishing priorities, and while I didn’t necessarily have time to get in a couple rounds of golf with friends every week, we still found time to be together for important events like birthdays or weddings. I would say I was ready mentally to sacrifice all of my free time, but with the help of my classmates and some planning at home, I still made time for the things outside of school and work that are also really important. It was also surprising to see how much I didn’t miss the things that we cut out. As an example, I used to watch sports all the time during the week. Now, I make time for a big game or event that I want to watch, but it is part of a bigger schedule.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? Luckily, my supervisors have been extremely supportive of my academic goals throughout the program. They saw early on how important this experience was to me, and it really helped that they were in my corner from the application process all the way through graduation.

I think a key to this was keeping in perspective that there really is going to be some give-and-take with your employer, but at the end of the day it is the student’s responsibility to make sure priorities are made across each area and commitments are kept. I was always up front with my boss to make sure he knew how much time I would need for school, but also in asking what his expectations were of me. This really was important during the third and fourth semesters when I was traveling for work. I tried to compartmentalize the three areas as much as possible. That way, when I was at work, my boss knew he could count on me to take care of my assignments. This was also important at home and with my classmates. When we were in session, or working as teams, I always wanted to make sure that what I was working on had my full attention. At home, it really helped that my wife was going through the program with me. She was in the same boat academically, so when it was time to study, we made a commitment to set time aside for our homework and teams.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program?  During the application process, do your homework on different programs. Be sure to reach out to current students, visit the campus, and sit in on a class if possible. Making sure you find the program and group of people that best fit your expectations is really important. We found that the best fit is not always the program which is closest, most convenient, or even the least expensive. All of those things matter, but for me, finding the right alignment of student expectations with the program GBS offered trumped everything else.

After you are in the program, be sure to remember how awesome the opportunity you have is. This (EMBA) experience really is what you make of it. During those middle semesters, when the end seems so far off, it was important to keep perspective and remember that it is a short-lived opportunity to be around these high-performing peers and to maximize the individual learning potential in each course. The happiest students are the ones who really make the most out of the program’s opportunities all the way through. It would be easy to skip a team meeting or put off the case readings, but remember the commitment you made to yourself and to your classmates early on and at the end you will be happier after giving each session your best effort.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school …” Following my time as a company commander. This role is typically the high point and most demanding, yet rewarding, job during a junior Army officer’s first ten years. I knew once I completed that goal that I wanted to find a way to challenge myself to grow even more. While successful professionally, I could tell I was missing something and taking the time to invest in myself became a real driver for me.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Intellectually and professionally unfulfilled. This experience really filled a void for me and had been a goal for some time.

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? There are really two. My first boss, Colonel Greg Gadson, really showed me what it meant to be a leader, not just a manager. I worked for him for 18 months, including a combat deployment to Baghdad which, in 2007, ultimately left him severely wounded.  He never asked anyone in our organization to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself. The strength he and his family showed in some of the most difficult circumstances is widely known in the Army, as he was very open about his injuries, how he dealt with them, and how he has come back even stronger following them. Colonel Gadson later commanded the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program, which helps severely wounded soldiers make the transition back to units or into new roles as civilians. He is just one of many examples, but the grace and perseverance he displayed has impacted countless soldiers and family members.

More and more, the professional I admire most is my father, Floyd. I really took for granted the challenges, risks and successes he went through as a small business owner for over 35 years. It actually took my experience at Goizueta to really put into perspective just what he accomplished as an entrepreneur who created a lasting business while innovating with product offerings to remain successful over such a long period. After starting his professional career at a large firm and then successfully spinning off his own organization, it is remarkable to see not only his professional success, but also the balance that he achieved with family and charitable organizations.

What are your long-term professional goals? Service is a really important part of my life and my family. I think in one way or another, continuing to serve in some capacity is something that will remain a cornerstone of my goals and career path. Down the road, I would like to find a place where I can pull from my experiences as an active-duty officer and the tools that Goizueta’s program has given me. Ideally, I would love to be part of a smaller organization or firm at some point, where I can see the day-to-day impact that I have on my co-workers and on our achieving collective goals. This is something that was unexpectedly cool about being a combat arms officer in smaller organizations early on in my career. I could very clearly see the impact that each member of our team had on our overall successes as a unit.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My wife and GBS classmate, Meegan. This has been a very busy two years for us, as we began school just months after moving to Georgia and starting new jobs at Fort Benning. Commuting to campus and going through this program together took a ton of commitment, organization, and patience, and she accounted for most of this in our house. Some thought going through this program together while still working full-time as officers at Fort Benning would be too much, but now that we are near the end of this experience, neither of us would change it at all. Going through this together has been a very rewarding experience for us both.

Fun fact about yourself: I trained for and ran a half marathon and two full marathons while going through this program, raising money for Homes for Our Troops. I constantly need goals that lead to feedback — not just in class or professionally, but really in all aspects of life. I have found this keeps me focused and forces balance.

Favorite book: Kotter’s Leading Change. This was one of my go-to handbooks during my first months of company command. This book is also found on the Army Chief of Staff’s reading list.

Favorite movie: The Usual Suspects

Favorite musical performer: Jimmy Buffett

Favorite television show: Even in the late seasons, I love “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

Favorite vacation spot: Maui, Hawaii

Hobbies? Golf, running, my Harley

What made Patrick such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Pat is most deserving of this recognition. Seldom does a student become more of a significant co-creator of the student learning experience in an executive business program than Pat Henson. Pat has helped to bring the resources of his employer, the U.S. Army, to enhance the student experience. Examples range from getting his classmates access to some of the unclassified U.S. Army country reports and their authors to enhance the Global Business Practices course, to motivating our leadership curriculum to include the Fort Benning’s Leader Reaction Course, and then to later serve as a facilitator in this activity.

“Pat is a super high performer on his job and in his executive MBA studies. He straightaway stood out amongst his classmates, and quickly established himself as one of the brightest students we’ve had in our program. I came to expect excellence in all aspects of Pat’s work, and I am happy to say that he always lived up to my high expectations of him. He combines intelligence and diligence with excellent communication skills. I was particularly impressed by his ability to think on his feet, and his often-intuitive grasp of the material. From the case studies we did, I can say that Pat has a decision-making orientation toward problems and seems comfortable dealing with ambiguity. I was also impressed by his ability to integrate concepts learned in other courses (e.g., pro forma analysis, team-building skills, operations management), through his activities outside the classroom, and through his prior professional work experience.

“The intangibles are off the chart. Pat’s humble yet firm demeanor makes people at ease and confident in his abilities. His work style of never compromising on deliverables and deadlines has spread throughout the class. He leads by example, understanding the importance of context in determining whether a collaborative or directive leadership style is appropriate. He’s the total package.

“In closing, Pat is most deserving of this recognition. He’s a doer who will continue to make a significant difference in the lives of others. He will represent the school and degree very well.”

Douglas Bowman
Senior Associate Dean for Working Professionals Programs
Professor of Marketing; McGreevy Term Chair
Co-Director, Emory Marketing Analytics Center
Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

DON’T MISS: CLASS OF 2016: THE BEST & BRIGHTEST GRADUATING EMBAS