Three graduating veterans share their Daniels experience

After nearly two decades in the U.S. Army, Rob Bingham knows all about the camaraderie that blossoms from military service.

Bingham joined the Army at age 18, fresh out of high school. Over the course of his service, he deployed three times—to Kuwait, Iraq and, most recently, Kosovo. During those deployments, and the professional employment that separated them, he built a close network of friends in the military and developed a passion for community service.

A couple of years ago, knowing his military retirement was approaching, Bingham began looking for a program to boost his business acumen and grow his network. The Executive MBA program at the Daniels College of Business instantly reminded him of the camaraderie he loved in his military service.

“Our cohort has become family. We take care of each other and its more than just surface level,” he said.

Rob Bingham poses at Adaptive Adventures in Westminster, CO.

Bingham is one of several military members currently in the program at Daniels, reflecting the EMBA’s long history of supporting veterans. The program, which takes 18 months to complete and offers fall and spring entry points, combines a strong business curriculum with crucial leadership lessons to educate the next generation of executives. It is also an example of the College’s commitment to veterans. Another Daniels program, the Online MBA, ranked No. 44 in the nation on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Online MBA Programs for Veterans—up six spots from last year.

In addition to his military service as a pilot, Bingham works as the development director for Adaptive Adventures, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides outdoor sports opportunities to children, veterans and adults with physical disabilities. The EMBA has given him a strong business base with courses in finance and accounting, while helping him find the local network he sought.

“Just getting access to the people in the cohort, understanding where they’ve been in life, that was my goal,” he said. “It has definitely paid off.”

These relationships are built in the classroom and in the field, as alternating Friday and Saturday classes are augmented with immersions at home and abroad.

Returning to Daniels

Les Wilson already had an advanced degree from the University of Denver when he landed on campus for the EMBA program in 2021. The United States Air Force veteran graduated with an MS in geographic information science in 2017, building on his career expertise in geospatial intelligence. After serving at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, Wilson has spent his entire career with DigitalGlobe (now Maxar Technologies) and had recently been promoted into a leadership position when he joined the EMBA cohort at Daniels. That timing, he said, has been perfect for his personal growth. In searching for a program, Wilson had prioritized an in-person experience that boosted his leadership acumen.

It wasn’t long after enrolling that he knew he made the right decision.

“After going through the sailing trip within the first couple months, I was hooked and sold, and it reconfirmed why I wanted to be a part of an in-person program,” he said, adding that the relationships he created were “life-changing.”

The group also went to South Africa in November 2021 as part of the EMBA’s international immersion, combining months of classroom preparation with a transformative, on the ground experience. These two out of the class experiences are hallmarks of the Daniels EMBA program and help foster crucial connections within the cohort, and with faculty and staff.

Entering the program, Wilson hoped to grow as a leader, and he’s thrilled with the results.

“Anyone who is interested in leadership or management, even if they might be a few years away from a more senior management role, I’d really encourage them to go into the Executive MBA program,” he said.

Guiding future leaders

With an expansive business curriculum, the program also provides an outlet for those searching for their next step.

Jonas Reynolds spent five years in the Army as a counterintelligence agent, deploying to Iraq three times. He thought he wanted to become an electrical engineer, but he’d go on to spend most of his 20s and early 30s building satellite ground stations across the globe.

When he saw a story on CNN about Team Rubicon, an international nonprofit run by military veterans that specializes in disaster response, he was struck. He signed up to volunteer immediately. From there, he was enamored. Reynolds would turn extensive volunteer work into a full-time job running the organization’s operation in Colorado and, eventually, the entire western part of the United States.

When COVID-19 hit, Reynolds and Team Rubicon were forced into nonstop action, providing mobile testing, vaccinations and food to underserved populations across the country. That hectic time was a lightbulb moment for Reynolds, and he knew he needed more training to become the best leader he could be. That led him to Daniels, where he connected with Wilson, the Air Force veteran, while on campus.

“Spending a couple hours with him, seeing the teachers’ passion and the caliber of students, it felt like a natural fit,” he said.

While he entered the program to learn the nitty gritty details of management and human resources, Reynolds was struck by the close bond he formed with his class. And he felt stretched in a place he never expected.

“It wasn’t necessarily the classes or the curriculum that challenged or grew me the most, it was working beside the fellow members of the cohort,” he said. “Seeing the range of experience, age, demographics and diversity that we have in our group, and listening to amazing people, that’s what has expanded my mind the most.”

Reynolds, Wilson and Bingham will all graduate in March and have effusive praise for the program and the way it benefits military veterans. Bingham called it a “no-brainer” for any veteran still looking to use their education benefits.

“A lot of veterans, when they get out of the military, are looking for that camaraderie piece and this is a good opportunity to have it,” he said, “and you also have a degree on your belt that holds a lot of weight.”