2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Eaton J. Kuh, New York University (Stern)

Eaton J. Kuh

New York University, Stern School of Business (Washington, DC)

Hard-working dreamer who loves laughing, listening to music, traveling, and making memorable experiences.”

Age: 36

Hometown: Honolulu, HI

Family Members: Kwan and Lisette Kuh (Parents, Honolulu), Jason Kuh (Brother, San Francisco)

Fun fact about yourself: My iPod has an extensive range of genres and songs including the most random collaborations and awesome throwbacks

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.S., Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania

Where are you currently working? Principal/Director, Booz Allen Hamilton

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:  

  • Numerous leadership roles within Booz Allen including adjunct instructor at the Change Management Advanced Practitioner (CMAP) program – a special program made between Booz Allen Hamilton and Georgetown University
  • Steering Committee member for the Punahou Alumni Associate – Mid-Atlantic (PAAMA)
  • Co-Representative for 2019-2020 for my Stern EMBA D.C. 20 Cohort
  • Participated in post-disaster recovery community service projects including Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina) and an orphanage project in Haiti (after a major earthquake)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I had the great opportunity of learning about business management during my undergraduate years from a fantastic school. Admittedly, it was difficult to gain true depth (outside of my concentrations and a few additional courses) because I didn’t have the right work experiences to truly appreciate and apply the lessons at the time. This time was different! My proudest achievement during my time in Stern’s Executive MBA: Washington, D.C. Program has been consistently learning and immediately applying the knowledge Stern gave to me, whether it was strategy, analytics, finance, or leadership. It really made me feel that the program was a worthy investment, especially as I elevated my game. It also felt very good getting strong grades in a lot of the courses that I didn’t appreciate as much from undergrad now that I had more than a decade of professional experiences, especially in accounting, statistics, and finance.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At Booz Allen Hamilton, I’ve had the great privilege to work with and make significant impacts for my clients, including but not limited to the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Force, U.S. Army, and the National Park Service. Further, I’ve had the honor of getting promoted four times at the firm. While I cherish all these achievements, I will always think most fondly of an award that one of my first major consulting (specifically process improvement) project team of 30+ staff gave to me. The award was a special and invented trophy back when I was in my twenties: Best Boss in a Business Process Reengineering (BPR) Comedy Series. They gave my deputy the Best Supporting Boss award. Earning the trust and respect of my staff during a very dynamic and challenging work environment was the most touching and amusing achievement that I always look back on. Knowing that I was able to make a family of sorts from this pool of professionals with laughter while still producing results motivated me for many years. The trophy is still on my desk today.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I purposefully wanted a top-notch program that would challenge and elevate my business acumen. Further, I wanted to learn from world-renowned faculty at an institution that was different from my undergrad program to expand my educational experiences. In addition, Stern EMBA D.C.’s Friday-Saturday-Sunday, once-per-month schedule, and close location to home were conducive to my hectic traveling schedule.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? It’s a tie! First, it’s the people and that includes my classmates, faculty, and staff. I particularly got to know my fellow classmates better during our Global Study Tour in Shanghai, China. Those shared memories, along with the hysterical classroom moments, are the best. The faculty are exquisitely intelligent and willing to help us out whether it’s a 7 a.m. weekend session or outside of the class weekends. Second, it’s the opportunity to block and spend time to think about important lessons from the classroom and apply those takeaways directly to my professional and personal life. Too often, we get distracted or overcome by normal day-to-day life. School has been a great way to get out of my normal crazy work schedule and environment and soak up these important classroom topics so I can meaningfully contemplate and apply them in my life immediately.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Professor Nate Pettit had our Leadership Training for High Potentials class divide into pairs and play sudden-death rounds of a card game in silence. Unbeknownst to any of the students at the beginning, each pair received slightly different instructions for the game. As we played, my partner and I realized what was going on. Right then, a flood of insights came into play – how people assume, interpret, and become stubborn in an environment where they think they know the truth. This was a great example of how much I learned about people up close through my diverse classmates. Although I’m a big fan of learning about self-awareness and the dangers of assumptions, I forgot how sheltered I was in a way for having spent lots of time in familiar environments especially from a people aspect. Combined with our lesson in listening, I’ve been applying these concepts in my work as I start to analyze from additional dimensions what game or rules I’m playing under, what game or rules everyone else thinks they’re under, and how to navigate from here effectively.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? In fall 2019, I had to juggle taking my Advanced Strategy and Decision Analytics classes, coordinating my 8-10 projects at work through critical milestones across the United States, and executing my Best Man duties for both the bachelor party and wedding weekend. I would not have survived the crazy month without novel ways for time and triage management while also having the support of my classmates and my work staff. My classmates were flexible in assigning tasks and good about helping me relax. My staff helped me be as productive as possible whether it was on a plane from St. Louis or in the hallways of the Pentagon. A few classmates and work colleagues even helped with ideas and supplies for the bachelor party and wedding preparations. Thanks to them, I was able to get through that month with awesome memories and mountains of appreciation.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Know going in that this program is tailored for executives. My accounting professor, Eli Bartov, said it best. He told our class that he wasn’t here to make us Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) since we would’ve already become one if desired at this point in our careers. His job was to teach us enough accounting so that we could make decisions like managers and executives. This was exactly what I was looking for with respect to what and how I wanted to learn the many fascinating topics the school offered.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? One of the biggest expectations I had for going back to school was making a wide network of friends from diverse backgrounds in industry, passions, culture, interests, and experiences. I was glad to see that I got just that! It’s amazing to learn so much from my accomplished classmates whether through their worlds of technology, finance, entertainment, healthcare, politics, education, sports, and more.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not checking to see that the burner phone I bought for the Global Study Tour in Shanghai was 2G – don’t take a 4G network phone for granted! That, and taking so long before coming back to school.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Another tie and it’s everyone in my cohort! Some impressed me with their intelligence of a highly dynamic field, some with their perseverance in working and studying while raising little kids, some with their passion for nonprofit causes, and some in their ability to hustle.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I fell in love with the curriculum. I realized that this was a must-do opportunity to force me to learn about the evolving, tech-enabled modern economy and boost my capabilities to become a leader within it. Plus, I wanted to learn more on how to work smarter, not harder.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Become a United States Ambassador. Service and impact are very important to me.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a hard-working friend of many talents and someone you can call for advice.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Visit the remaining continents I haven’t been to (Africa, Oceania, Antarctica). Fatherhood.

What made Eaton such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Eaton has consistently proven to be one of the most active and engaged students in the EMBA DC program. Nominated by his peers as their class representative, he is able to articulate questions and feedback in a positive and constructive way – working efficiently with his cohort, other EMBA students, faculty, and the administration to create meaningful change. One of his professors, Joe Foudy, notes that, “while Eaton was a phenomenal student who wrote superb papers and offered great insights in the classroom, it was his role as a consummate team player on group projects that most stood out to me.  He received uniform praise from his peers for his hard work and leadership, which is the real mark of any great student and future business leader.” His calm and steady leadership is balanced by his enthusiasm for developing new and exciting initiatives, and his thoughtful support of the community. He is constantly bringing the achievements of his peers to the forefront, and considering their needs, especially throughout the unique COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that there are events and opportunities for networking and career development. In addition to his work building a tight-knit community with his classmates, he is continuously thinking of ways to increase exposure to the faculty, through creative co-curricular opportunities, faculty chats, or social events. He has been an invaluable addition to the inaugural EMBA DC cohort.”

Colleen Brauer
Associate Director, Executive Programs (EMBA DC)
NYU Stern

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.