Outward Bound USA participants canoe down a river

Veterans Serve Veterans through Carlson Consulting Enterprise Project

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Helping a fellow military member doesn’t end when service is over. A project underway within the Carlson School of Management is allowing two veterans to hold true to that promise.

“Too many of us veterans have people who committed suicide directly in our circles or at least a second degree of separation,” said Pat Shuman, ’22 MBA, a Marine veteran. “So, the mission hits very close to home.”

Joe Crawford
Joe Crawford, '22 MBA, Marine veteran
Pat Shuman
Pat Shuman, '22 MBA, Marine veteran

The mission is a project for the Carlson Consulting Enterprise (CCE), where students work with a real-world client to assess ways to improve business practices. This is one of several experiential learning programs at the Carlson School. Outward Bound USA, an experiential and outdoor education nonprofit, turned to CCE to review its program designed for military veterans.

The organization had just one request: Have military veterans work on the project. Shuman and Joe Crawford, ’22 MBA, a fellow Marine, jumped at the opportunity.

“That loss of community can be so jarring for veterans regardless of what you did in service,” Crawford reflected. “Being able to have the ability to positively improve Outward Bound’s program and see if there's ways to serve more veterans in a year, I think is very worthwhile.”

More than a connection with nature, Outward Bound USA’s experiential program allows veterans to rediscover their strengths in a team-building expedition. The course comes at no cost to the veterans. While the program receives high interest, it struggles with high cancellation rates among participants, causing a financial drain on the system.

“How do they keep being able to raise the funds to allow veterans to go on the course? And to be able to provide the expedition for free for the veterans?” asked Crawford.

Linda Nkosi
Linda Nkosi, '22 MBA
Hudson Brama
Hudson Brama, '22 BSB

Crawford, Shuman, Linda Nkosi, ’22 MBA, and Hudson Brama, ’22 BSB, are currently working together to try to answer those questions. Throughout the semester, they have interviewed staff across the entire organization and analyzed data to evaluate current challenges facing the program.

The team hopes to streamline operations in the veterans program, determine how it compares to others in the market, and, ultimately, lay the foundation for Outward Bound USA to build sustainable partnerships to integrate the program within a treatment network.

“Really trying to home in on some long-term partners for fundraising, but in addition to that helping them to get into collaborations with other organizations to create these wraparound services to take veterans through an entire healing process,” explained Nkosi.

Outward Bound USA Executive Director Josh Brankman says insights like those could help elevate the program and truly make a difference.

"The CCE team dove right into this project with passion and vigor,” said Brankman. “Their energy combined with their process and analysis has really impressed my staff and board. It is learning by doing, which aligns perfectly with our educational model, and their recommendations have the potential to impact thousands of veterans."

The group’s efforts reflect not only their personal passion, but also the Carlson School’s deep commitment to the military community. Rated the top Military-Friendly graduate business school in the nation for several years, former military members represent 22% of students in the full-time MBA program.

“It’s really hard for veterans to find that connection if they don't have people outside of their veteran network who welcome them into their circle and give them a chance,” said Shuman. “That’s another great aspect of the MBA at Carlson, because our classmates are really good at that for us and not everyone gets that chance.”

It’s a chance they hope to give other veterans by making an impactful difference for Outward Bound USA.

“The day you get out of the military, you can't just put all that stuff behind you,” said Crawford. “Challenges may come in the way, but it’s about bringing that community together and showing people you’re not alone.”

CCE team Outward Bound project

Top photo courtesy: Outward Bound USA

Spring 2022 alumni magazine cover

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 alumni magazine

Strength is determined by how we rise in the face of challenges. 

The Carlson School community remains an unstoppable force. 

Spring 2022 table of contents