Earning a master’s of business administration degree from Olin Business School isn’t easy. Having your education interrupted to serve your country in Iraq makes that even more challenging.
But Hugh Tychsen has met the obstacles head on and will receive an MBA at the May 20 Commencement.
Tychsen, a Marine and a veteran of three tours of duty in Iraq, is fortunate to be graduating at all.
On the first day of his first tour in 2004, the Humvee in which Tychsen was riding ran over a roadside bomb, an improvised explosive device (IED).
“They buried the IED too deep, apparently,” he says. “That’s the only reason we walked away. I was in a Humvee with no armor. Shrapnel went through the vehicle. I checked to make sure everyone else was OK and we radioed it in before going to look for the enemy. It was intense, especially considering I had been in class at WUSTL just five weeks before.”
But he not only survived, he thrived in the disciplined, structured military world, giving him a strong foundation for success in life.
“For me, Hugh is the personification that hard work pays off,” says Kevin M. Kiley, director of Professional MBA (PMBA) admissions at Olin. “Here’s a guy who did three tours in Iraq, worked multiple jobs and worked his tail off both inside and outside the classroom as an Olin MBA.
“That just doesn’t happen unless there’s an extremely high level of commitment, dedication and sacrifice across all aspects of a person’s life.”
Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Tychsen attended Priory High School in St. Louis, graduating in 1999. “I didn’t even want to go to college when I graduated from Priory, which is funny in hindsight,” Tychsen says. “I just didn’t have my head screwed on right, I guess.”
So instead of college, he joined the Marine reserves and found himself in California for infantry training. It was there he realized he had been given opportunities few others had. “It gave me a lot of perspective,” says Tychsen, whose father, Lawrence Tychsen, MD, is a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, of pediatrics and of anatomy and neurobiology at the School of Medicine.
He came back from basic training and enrolled at WUSTL. “I hit the books hard and finished my undergraduate degree in political science in 2005,” he says.
But not before that first call to action interrupted his studies. Just after the first semester of his senior year, Tychsen was called up to active duty and was deployed to the Sunni Triangle area of Iraq with a Marine infantry battalion. He stayed on for an additional tour and returned to the university in January 2005 to finish his senior year.
After his May graduation, he got a job as a manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Realizing he wanted more out of his career, he enrolled in the PMBA program at WUSTL. But halfway through his second semester, he was called up and deployed back to Iraq.
“When I came back from that tour, I realized I really wanted to focus full time on getting my MBA,” he says. He quit his job and signed up for the full-time program.
“Hugh is a very special young man,” says Jan Snow, director of PMBA student affairs. “We stayed in touch while he was in Iraq — and staff and students here at Olin made sure that his unit received some care packages.
“When he returned, he moved seamlessly back into his studies. He’s a great guy —thoughtful, caring, dependable — and has a great can-do attitude.”
Tychsen, who recently got married, has accepted a position as operations project manager at St. Louis-based Express Scripts. He credits his Olin experience for helping him get the job and giving him the confidence to move forward in the business world.
“Getting an MBA to me is almost like getting a more mature minor in every facet of business,” he says. “I look at the world through a different lens now than I did before.
“I’ve learned so much in my classes. And I’ve gotten to know some of the most interesting, smartest people I’ve ever met in my life.
“The networking opportunities and speakers really increase your confidence and your ability to converse about anything. It’s just been fantastic,” he says.