IAVA to Fly Select Vets to Business Boot Camp

IAVA Fullbridge at Capitol Hill

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is going to pick up the round-trip airfare for what could be 20 or more member veterans who are accepted into an immersion course in business this fall in Illinois.

The Fullbridge Program is a 5-week intensive course in business basics that IAVA officials believe can be invaluable to returning veterans, said Jeff Park, the group's strategic partnerships associate, who took the program himself in January 2013.

"In that world there is a language and sort of baseline knowledge that people have," Park said. "This was a great opportunity to have a course in how to use the language ... to  understand financials, to read a balance sheet and income statements, how to present, to pitch, and get a proposal out there."

Park said IAVA members have until Aug. 22 to apply for the program, which begins Sept. 15 at Concordia University in Chicago. Because the program leads to a Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals, applicants must already have at least a bachelor's degree.

Park was among 10 veterans for whom IAVA ponied up full tuition for the course – nearly $6,000 – in January 2013. Back then Fullbridge was still getting off the ground and the program was held at a hotel in Cambridge, so it was not covered under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Since then the program has expanded to partner with graduate schools such as Holy Cross near Boston and Concordia.

That connection qualifies the program for the GI Bill, but Park said IAVA felt that "the cost of traveling to and from Illinois might discourage some vets from applying."

"To IAVA members who need them, we'll be providing Southwest Airlines vouchers for travel to and from Chicago, granted it's within the continental U.S," he said.

That kind of assistance can make a difference. Former Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Carroll, now a law student at Duke University in North Carolina, applied for the program through IAVA in 2012 when he was just about to leave the Air Force.

"They give you a big workload," he said. "More than you can really handle, and you've got to prioritize, task things out ... and make decisions quickly on what most important and what's least important."

"It's not a leadership course, it's really about building business analytical skills," he said.

The Fullbridge Program was established in 2010 by Peter Olson, a former chairman and chief executive officer of Random House, and Candice Carpenter Olson, a former founder and CEO of iVillage, a media company now owned by NBCUniversal.

The early instructors, or coaches, included Harvard MBA recipients, as well as some guest instructors from Claris Corp. and LucasArts Entertainment, according to the company's history. Its first targeted audience included corporate law firms, providing training for first-year associates.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company began broadening from there. During this time, established brick and mortar schools began developing their own immersion business programs, including Stanford, Dartmouth, the University of Chicago, and the University of California-Berkeley, according to a June 2012 report in Fortune.

The IAVA/Fullbridge link came about in 2012 at the annual Aspen Ideas Festival, where IAVA founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff met Fullbridge co-founder Carpenter Olson.

"This is why people trek to this gathering, because stuff like this happens all the time," Olson said in an email. "I attended an event where Paul was speaking about employment issues for returning vets, and I realized immediately we had something to contribute."

She and Rieckhoff met about three more times over the two days to collaborate, starting the planning that led to the January 2013 program that IAVA funded.

"They did a great job of bringing incredible candidates to the pilot program," she said.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@monster.com.

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