U.S. Marine Corps veteran Captain Corey McMillen (’17) is pursuing his MBA as much to attain his career goals as to make a difference for other military veterans. He specialized in logistics and operations and, in the months between departing the Marine Corps and starting his full-time MBA, he offered his skills pro bono to Wounded Warrior Homes in San Diego.
McMillen is one of four UCLA Anderson students who will receive a 2016 John Wooden Global Leadership Fellowship on November 2. He says early examples of leadership and service inspired his volunteer spirit.
Introduced to the teachings of Coach John Wooden as a teenager, McMillen says he only recently understood how deliberately the Pyramid of Success was built — and “the genius behind it,” as he puts it. “I don’t always think of myself as the smartest person in the room,” he laughs, “but I’m most likely the hardest working.”
The Fort Lauderdale native joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 2004 at age 17 with the consent of his mother, who eight years earlier had seized the reins of the family business when McMillen’s father — a cruise ship musical talent agent — died young. She wanted to see him complete his studies at the University of Central Florida, which McMillen combined with Officer Candidate School in 2005, becoming a full-time officer in 2008 and embarking on his first deployment in 2010, a second in 2011.
McMillen was stationed with a NATO unit in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, navigating and refining operations in a difficult international context when he found himself working under an officer of the Royal Air Force. “He was the smartest and most influential leader I have ever met. He consistently planned four or five steps ahead of everyone else and always knew the right question to ask, regardless of how chaotic or complex the environment,” McMillen says, recalling how he learned to own the challenge of sifting through information and language barriers, covering all contingencies to anticipate the needs of people and facilities while under attack.
Later, using the initiative he employed while stationed in dangerous regions abroad, he turned around a failing department of 35 at Camp Pendleton, developing goals and direction with the team. “A leader’s job is to empower,” he says, proud to have left a department better off than he had found it, with Marines feeling happier in their jobs and more prepared for overseas assignments.
McMillen says personal mentorship is essential for veterans to transition successfully from service to civilian life. He loved working as a management consultant at Bain & Company last summer and will continue with the firm — but he knows first-hand that the corporate environment requires adjustment. Having observed and experienced the horrors of war, he says, “It changes a person to know there’s someone willing to take his or her own life in order to end yours. I don’t think anyone comes back the same. I want to help veterans tell their stories in a way that’s meaningful to the civilians in a position to hire them.”
The 2016 John Wooden Global Leadership Award honors W. James McNerney, Jr., retired chairman, CEO and president of the Boeing Company. The event will be held on Wednesday, November 2, at the California Science Center, starting at 6:00 p.m. Business attire is required. For event and ticket information, contact email@example.com. Proceeds from the event fund fellowships for four UCLA Anderson students who are being awarded John Wooden Global Leadership Fellowships.