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Finding the Right Company

Community at Owen proves key for married MBA student

Benjamin Burkeen
Senior Manager, Home Office Learning and Leadership Strategy, Walmart

Vanderbilt MBA 2020

Growing up in Tennessee, Benjamin Burkeen knew all about Vanderbilt’s strong reputation. Remaining close to his family and friends while he earned his MBA was a big plus, too.

Despite this, he wanted to ensure Vanderbilt was a good fit for both himself and his wife. “I think the network you gain at school is one of the most important attributes of an MBA education,” he says, “and finding the right community was a big priority for me.”

Over the course of several campus visits, Benjamin found his answer. He enjoyed the people he was getting to know. “There is a huge diversity of skillsets and backgrounds [here],” he says. “Not everyone is a consultant or finance person.”

And, he quickly adds, “There is a huge emphasis on partners being included in the community. [The inclusion of partners] is not just lip service.” In fact, he counts meeting other married couples and spending time with them as one of the highlights of his time at Vanderbilt.

In his first year, along with immersing himself in his studies, Benjamin has involved himself in student government, the Owen Culinary Society, and the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures. “This is a small, tight-knit community,” he says. “Because of that, Owen needs students that are willing to invest in the school community through clubs and leadership positions. The Owen experience demands more of the student than just going to class, and the whole community is better for it.”

Benjamin noted that the abundant opportunities to work with such a diverse group of people aren’t just social; they also offer practical experience. “I’ve been able to experiment with several different leadership styles while at school,” he says. “I view this experience as a laboratory and an opportunity to grow, and I have been eager to test out different ways of working with my classmates across team projects and classes. This will serve me well as I move into dynamic roles in the future.”

Fun Fact: Benjamin is the son and grandson of hot air balloon pilots.

“There is a huge emphasis on partners being included in the community. It’s not just lip service.”