Jen Schreifels-Watkins began her post-secondary education studying psychology and sociology at Stanford. This background served her well, as she served in the U.S. Army Special Operations community for seven years in Psychological Operations. “Your job is to think culturally in order to communicate strategically in support of the mission,” she says.
Focused on the Middle East and Central Asia, she deployed to Afghanistan twice. She worked with teams operating in far-flung villages to inform and assist rural populations as well as with military units, federal agencies, and international partners to create nationwide messaging campaigns in support of the Afghan government.
“As I was preparing to transition out of the Army, I knew I was coming home to Minnesota and going to grad school—just not what kind of grad school,” she says. Her husband’s transition preceded hers by a year, and he was already studying at the Humphrey Institute, right next door to the Carlson School. A friend who was in the Full-Time MBA program told him about Carlson’s military program, and he relayed that information to his wife.
“There are several inflection points in my life where I later realized that I had unknowingly made the right choice, and I am very grateful for those lucky breaks,” Schreifels-Watkins says. Leaving Minnesota for Stanford was one. Joining “Psyop” was another. “Choosing Carlson was my third lucky break,” she says.
She admits she didn’t know much about business schools until a few months before she applied. But, as she has learned more about business education and heard from her classmates about their journeys, she’s realized how unique the Carlson School is in its dedication and commitment to recruiting and supporting veterans. “And how amazingly lucky I am to have stumbled onto this program in my own backyard,” she says.
Schreifels-Watkins is poised to graduate next year. Based on her experience, she is strongly inclined toward marketing and consumer-focused roles, but she has a passion for organizations, systems, and processes. “I grew up in rural Minnesota with fantastic blue-collar and small business role models, but far fewer examples of corporate and manufacturing,” she says. “One of my goals in business school and going forward is to take advantage of the Carlson community to learn more about the roles and opportunities that exist in the business world.”
As she crosses the graduation stage next year, Schreifels-Watkins knows she will have the knowledge and experience to make her successful. And she wants other veterans like her to have the same opportunity. “As president of the Full-Time MBA Veterans Club, I’m excited to see the Carlson veteran community grow. We’d like to build stronger ties to part-time student veterans as well as with veteran alumni from before Mr. Van Dyke and Mr. Walter began their groundbreaking initiative,” she says. “The mentorship and networking potential is immense. Carlson vets have each other’s back.”
Learn more about using business as a force for good in the Carlson School Alumni Magazine, where this feature originally appeared.