Veterans in Global Leadership Provides Veterans the Tools to Transform Military Experience to Civilian Success
By: Dustin Malm
I recently attended the Veterans in Global Leadership 2018 VGL Leadership Summit at Georgetown University. Full disclosure, I was skeptical of the program before getting here because it is a new program that is not well known on the West Coast. Most of their staff are young, and I have learned through LinkedIn there are a billion vet groups out there (give or take a few). The first day completely erased all my skepticism and I began to realize the value this program provides.
First, the level and scope of personal access to people is insane. I’m competing against a former Secretary of the Navy in Marshall Scholarship admittance (he was a finalist). Silvia M. Burwell, a former Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Affordable Care Act creation may also be of indirect help (she went to Oxford, was also the Director of Office of Management and Budget, and is now the President of American University), and I created relationships with countless senior execs/presidents/directors in top businesses of their respective fields. I read the bios of the presenters/panelists prior to attending the summit, but meeting them in person and having the opportunity to learn from and converse with them was greater than I imagined.
Second, networking is critical to getting admitted to more fellowships. I learned many of the boards of directors in the fellowship world cross-pollinate. There is also a certain logic to admissions I learned about from one of the panelists on the scholarship admissions board. I learned that once you have been admitted to your first scholarship, it is easier to get into others because you are now known successful candidate. This creates a rolling stone of success and was not something I had thought about before.
Third, these executives absolutely want to “pay forward” the help they received when they first got their foot in the door. These high level professionals, often difficult to access, were willing to provide their cell numbers, direct e-mail addresses, or whatever would help us succeed.
Fourth, being around and in this caliber of people and education was uplifting. After we went to the White House Saturday night, we talked about our experience at a nearby rooftop bar. We all came from top level schools such as Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Ohio State, Old Dominion, etc. Growing up, I wanted to go to Columbia because their astrophysics program was #1 and I wanted to be an astronaut, but I never got anywhere near a top level school. I had terrible grades K-12 and dropped out of community college. Even going to the Defense Language Institute (DLI), then National Intelligence University (NIU), I did not realize the rigor of selection for these schools, nor the prestige that comes with attending them. You see, the Marine Corps does not focus on individual worth for a variety of institutional reasons (retention, obedience to orders, etc) and I had undervalued the prestige I had earned from attending those schools.
Because of VGL, I feel like an integral part of an elite group of extremely high achievers that will help me break down the barriers to get to where I want to be. Ten years ago, I would have found it absurd if someone had told me I would be in the company of students from elite and prestigious colleges and universities, let alone been one of those students. Another interesting dynamic in our cohort is that none of us come from money or prestigious family names or connections. We all come from lower to middle working class homes, and many of us are first generation college students. We have all arrived to where we are through hard work, both in the military and in the academic setting. I am slowly starting to come to grips with the feeling that I belong among these men and women and I think it is awesome.
Fifth, being around these rising leaders for the last four days and having intense political/economic/academic talks — sprinkled with off-the-wall discussions typical among servicemembers — is pulling me out of the malaise that comes with feeling judged by my military rank. Their drive is infectious and I want to bring that back to my workplace and share it. I want to bring what I learned to other people and share with them the opportunities I have received. I am so excited for what the future holds, and I am ecstatic that I am finally starting to really appreciate my own accomplishments.
For anyone debating whether or not they should apply to the VGL Fellowship, I have the following to say: VGL is what bridges the gap between your hard work in the military and continuing to excel as a civilian. Whether that means receiving a prestigious scholarship, obtaining a fellowship that opens doors for a career in leadership, or continuing selfless service in a non-profit, the networking and skills VGL bestows upon its Fellows will accelerate and elevate your progress. Personally, I am looking forward to watching this fellowship grow so I can have the opportunity to “pay it forward” to future Fellows.
Dustin Malm is a Fellow in the Veterans in Global Leadership 2018–19 Cohort, a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, and Masters candidate at Johns Hopkins University. He is in his ninth year as an active duty Marine Cryptologic Linguist. He learned Levantine, Egyptian, and Modern Standard Arabic at the Defense Language Institute. After completing his studies at DLI, he cross trained into analysis and eventually became an instructor in advanced analytics. Dustin received his Bachelor of Science in Intelligence from National Intelligence University (NIU) in 2017. It was at NIU where Dustin found his academic calling in Russian foreign policy, which he continues to pursue at Johns Hopkins University with his Master of Arts in Government. Following conferral of his Masters, Dustin hopes to pursue a PhD in International Relations and then return to civil service.
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