Student Spotlight: Brian Choi
U.S. Army officer Brian Choi shares his experience in the School of Business master’s in organizational leadership program.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your position or rank, and what does it entail?
I am a proud Midwesterner born and raised in a northwest suburb of Chicago. After finishing my undergraduate studies in Wisconsin, I earned my commission into the United States Army as an armor officer. An armor officer is typically responsible for leading tank or reconnaissance operations in training and in combat; however, I just recently pinned on the rank of major, indicating a transition from company-grade to field-grade officer (lower management to middle management). Hence, I am currently a student at the Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) while concurrently a student at the University of Kansas! Having moved or deployed every year since 2009, I am ecstatic to be back in the Midwest. I am a proud husband and father of two amazing boys that support me as much as I support them.
Why did you decide to pursue your master’s in organizational leadership? When will you complete your degree?
Earning a master’s degree has always been a goal of mine; however, studying organizational leadership was a very recent decision. I am privileged to have had the Army select me for CGSC and believe there is no better time for self-development than when the Army gives us a full year to be a student! Upon arriving here in Kansas, I found that the Fort Leavenworth Education Center provided multiple master’s degree options at several schools. From these programs, organizational leadership caught my eye because it aligns directly with what I will do as a field-grade officer in the Army but from an invaluable civilian perspective. My projected graduation date is next month (May 2020).
What has been one of your favorite moments in your program so far?
Weekly peer-reviewed article briefs. For all of my management classes, a student is responsible for finding a recent article on the topic of study for that week, providing a short summary of the key points, sharing his or her analysis and potential applications, and asking us questions to initiate discussion. These simple yet thought-provoking assignments not only push us to stay abreast of current business practices but help us widen our aperture to become strategic thinkers. I have really enjoyed listening and seeing the diverse points of view and having the cooperative argumentative dialogue that is difficult to replicate outside of an educational environment.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Self-discipline. CGSC is known to be the “best year of your life” in the Army. Many of us arrived with the notion that we would finally be “taking a knee” from training or being in combat, network (meaning, drink a few beers over BBQ with new friends), and enjoy Kansas City with our families. Yet, a lot of us, including me, maintained that notion amid demanding study requirements, and became bitter. Endeavoring to earn a master’s degree while concurrently attending CGSC is not, and has not, been an easy feat — balancing studies, family, and personal time. However, what I found to be the imperatives for success are attitude, time management, and expectation management as self-discipline attributes.
What are your plans for the future? How do you think the organizational leadership program will impact your career moving forward?
The Army typically has individual careers already mapped out for most officers; thus, it is more important that I properly prepare for my future job as a division planner and battalion S3/XO. KU School of Business’ organizational leadership program will directly assist in my preparations not only for the next few years but I believe for a lifetime of business in and outside of the Army.
What accomplishment, personally or professionally are you most proud of?
Not giving up. I know this sounds cliché, but I am not talking about dropping a class or such. It is maintaining your workout routine, not ignoring the practice problems and ensuring you give your 100% best effort, even if you can get away with a less for a passing grade. Amid the demands from the Army, KU, and restrictions due to COVID-19, I am proud that I am giving my 100% while still finding the time to engage with my wife and 1- and 2-year-old boys.
What is something you still hope to learn, in or out of the classroom?
Reading faster! There’s always so much to read, but never really enough time. I recently took a speed-reading course, and while it has helped me for the past several weeks, I still want to read faster. Yet, since we all know practice makes perfect, I can only read faster if I read more. I guess time will only tell.