Hometown: Esko, Minnesota

Program: Part-Time MBA

Current position: Operations manager, Lumium Lighting

Favorite faculty member: “Anne Cohen, who taught my very first class on business strategy and helped me to understand and realize the transferability of the skills I had developed in the Marine Corps about strategy and large-scale planning.”

Best part about Carlson: “The leadership development and strategy classes. Carlson has top-notch instructors and researchers in this area.”

Capt. Marcus Bolen was fresh off working a night shift in southern Afghanistan as he flew east toward Kandahar. Yet, even as he rode in a helicopter over a volatile part of the war-torn country, his nerves centered on the GMAT test he was scheduled to take at a military base in Afghanistan’s second-largest city.

Bolen’s service contract with the U.S. Marine Corps was up in a few months, and he needed a plan for his future.

“I felt a ton of pressure,” he says.

Nearly four years later, Bolen is on the precipice of graduating with his MBA in December. He’s balanced his schoolwork in the Carlson Part-Time MBA Program with a full-time job at a California-based manufacturing startup.

Bolen had initially intended to pursue a full-time MBA program. But after a military career that included three deployments and nearly 500 hours of combat flight time as a helicopter pilot, he joined the small team at Lumium Lighting, which designs and manufactures custom fixtures for the architectural marketplace.

“Up until that point, I had military experience, so I wanted to see the other side of things,” he says.

But now he found himself faced with a conundrum: He still wanted his MBA, but he wasn’t ready to leave a growing company.

“The Part-Time Program solved that for me,” he says.

Striking a balance

Not only was it a more flexible path to an MBA, though—Bolen could apply lessons from class to his job at Lumium, which is based in Costa Mesa, Calif.

“It’s one of those things where I think things work out for a reason,” he says. “The Part-Time Program is perfect for me.”

He now predominantly works remotely from the Twin Cities, though he’s also utilized the flexibility of online courses through the Part-Time Program to mesh with his busy schedule. Having taken an online class as an undergraduate, he was bracing for a solitary experience: independently working his way through a syllabus.

“But with the (online) classes at Carlson, you’re still tied in with your class,” Bolen says. “You need to check in, you need to post video comments, so it actually brings you in and helps with the discussion, which I think is important, especially in business school. The side discussions are a lot of times just as valuable as everything else that’s going on.”

Long term, Bolen is interested in a career in business strategy or consulting, ideally in technologies that are focused on solving global problems, which he says aligns with the altruistic principles that drew him to the military.

“I have a very curious side of me,” he says, “and I like looking at problems and trying to find a solution and then implementing that solution.”