In the first month of the new year, Executive Education at the Darla Moore School of Business did something entirely new, and rather exciting: We took one of our most established, venerable courses on the road.
Well, not the “road,” literally. No mere road would take us that far. We took our Business Analytics course to the U.S. Army’s Camp Zama in Japan.
Our Business Analytics course has to a great extent formed the basis of a long and helpful relationship with the Army. It’s a big part of our growing Government and Military Solutions program.
The Army has seen a rapidly growing need for data-savvy soldiers and civilian personnel. It needs sophisticated data analysts in uniform, and that has become a key focus when senior leader think about higher education topics for key personnel. Since 2014, we’ve taught this course to Army personnel a couple of dozen times. But in the past it’s always been taught right here at the Moore School, or virtually from the same location.
But the old ways just weren’t practical in this case. U.S. Army Japan contacted us last June about teaching the course to a full class of its personnel, and it was just too much trouble to send that many soldiers and civilian workers around the world for a five-day course. So that meant we could do it virtually, right? Wrong. Think about it. There’s a 13-hour time difference.
So we figured out what we would need, and by October, Cody Zilhaver, ExecEd’s director of Military Engagement, had worked out a plan, and had an agreement with U.S. Army Japan. And we were there on the ground the week of Jan. 9.
That is to say, Associate Dean Mark Cecchini was there, along with former faculty member Mike Galbraith, who had worked with Mark to create the program nearly a decade ago.
As Mark tells it, the experience was new in more ways than the classroom being on the other side of the world. “This was slightly different from the other 20 or 30 times.” One way is that instead of being from different facilities across the country, “Everybody there was from there,” in the sense of being under the command of U.S. Army Japan.
But in another way, the class was very diverse, in terms of the jobs they needed help with. There were, as you’d expect, financial management people. But they were accompanied by folks from human resources, intelligence, operations and logistics. There were interpreters, medical personnel, and musicians from the Army band. And they all wanted help managing data that were relevant to their roles.
For instance, the band people were having an issue of keeping track of how many missions they performed in the region, and making it known to senior leaders. They have to do more than just hit the right notes. They travel all over Japan and to places like Taiwan as well. It’s “kind of a combination of the softer side and yet a little show of force.” It’s about making friends, but also reminding people that the U.S. military is here, and in numbers great enough to bring along bands.
Part of the Business Analytics course is about participants coming up with and presenting projects that apply to their particular jobs. So for that purpose, this diverse group was broken up into working teams – a band team, an interpreter team, an intelligence team, a medical team, and so forth.
Every class ExecEd teaches has the aim of having the participants go back to work and actually implement the things they’ve learned. Mark predicts that this time, there’s a better chance than ever of this happening. That’s because “the chief of staff was there; the commanding general was there.”
After hearing the project proposals, “The general got up and spoke on the benefit of the class” to the entire group, and not just people who are in roles of “counting money.”
Mark considered the trip a success as well. “It was kind of the experience of a lifetime.”
Well, yes and no. Col. Zilhaver says plans are under way for him to go do it again in Seoul, South Korea. The Army there – some 30,000 strong – had wanted to send some people to the class at Camp Zama. But there just wasn’t enough room.