Jennifer Kilbourn, MBA (2019)
Jennifer Kilbourn, MBA (2019)
What is your background?
I was born in Colorado, but I was a military brat, so I moved around a lot until I started middle school. My dad retired when I was starting 6th grade and we moved from Hawaii back to Colorado. I graduated from Fountain-Fort Carson High School and enlisted in the Air Force shortly thereafter.
I completed an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S) in Air and Space Operations Technology at the Community College of the Air Force while active duty and then earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Management with a concentration in Leadership from American Military University.
I began my Air Force career in 2005 as an Airmen Basic (E-1) and specialized in Aerospace Control and Warning System (now referred to as Command and Control Battle Management Operations). My Air Force career culminated in being selected for Master Sergeant (E-7) after 10 years of service, as I was unexpectedly separated for medical reasons. Some of the positions I held while serving in the Air Force include:
- Weapons Simulation Technician
- Electronic Protection Technician
- Weapons Director
- Weapons Director Instructor and Evaluator
- Assistant Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of Standardization and Evaluation
- NCOIC of Weapons and Tactics
- NCOIC of Operations Training
After separating from the Air Force, I have worked in both the private sector with various defense contractors, and in the Government as a civil service employee. Positions held from 2015 to present include:
- Proposal Specialist (Aktarius LLC – small defense contractor)
- Contract Specialist (U.S. Air Force Civilian – Government)
- Capture and Proposal Coordinator (Vectrus Systems Corporation – large defense contractor)
In addition to working at Vectrus, I currently serve on the Board of Directors for a local non-profit organization – The Children’s Literacy Center.
What were the factors that led you to pursuing the UCCS MBA/MSA?
The following factors led me to pursue an MBA at UCCS:
1. Earning an MBA would enable me to gain a deeper understanding of business concepts and strategies, which would give me an advantage in both my current role and future endeavors to start my own consulting firm.
2. Earning an MBA would provide great opportunities to network with other like-minded individuals, as well as with others who have the same general interest, but have a different perspective. Each of these types of interactions have helped me in my own growth and understanding.
3. It was too late to transfer my Post-911 G.I. Bill to my children and I did not want such an amazing benefit to go to waste.
4. I specifically chose UCCS to pursue my MBA because it is a hallmark in Colorado Springs and was nationally recognized for its MBA program, as reported by the U.S. News and World Report
5. Additionally, I chose UCCS because of the numerous programs and services available to veterans through their dedicated Office of Veteran Affairs.
How would you describe your experience as a student in the MBA/MSA program?
I have really enjoyed the flexibility of the MBA program at UCCS. Since my undergraduate degree was strictly completed online, I was excited to have the opportunity to attend a brick and mortar school and learn in a more traditional environment while experiencing the college life that I missed out on. On the other hand, there were still opportunities for online/hybrid opportunities that allowed me to have the flexibility needed to find a work/life/school balance. I also enjoyed that the MBA program is thoughtfully planned out and that each of the core requirements ties directly back to previous courses taken, while electives allowed me to choose classes that were particularly of interest to me. Also, the campus is beautiful and offers a ton of amenities that I have used throughout my program.
Do you have any particular memory of a classroom experience, professor or fellow student that stands out?
I have had a lot of great experiences throughout my program. Of note, I will always remember Dr. Warrick, as I took two classes with him and his passion for teaching was always very apparent. It was also obvious that he truly cared about and was interested in each of his students. Other professors that stand out include Dr. Tomlin (Applied Principles of Negotiation/Conflict Management) and Dr. Green (Accounting). Dr. Tomlin stood out because the way she taught the negotiation course was engaging and fun. That class was definitely one of my favorite classes and the role-playing activities really helped me understand the concepts and apply them in real-life. Dr. Green stood out because he was hilarious and made accounting fun. I really dreaded taking any accounting course, but he taught it in a way that made it enjoyable. There were too many students that I had the pleasure of interacting with to name, but I really enjoyed the unique aspects and diversity of the students that I worked with during this program.
Can you talk about your career to date and any way your education impacted where you are today?
My career consists of various experiences to date (see question 1). My education has had a positive impact on each phase of my professional life. When I was in the Air Force, my technical degree (A.A.S. Air and Space Operations Technology) helped me to grow in my specialty. As I grew into management/leadership roles, I needed to pursue education that would help me understand how to manage processes/programs and lead people. Upon separating from the Air Force, I found that having an understanding of business strategy was an extremely important concept to understand in the private sector, as profitability and growth are determining factors of business success outside of the Government. Pursuing an MBA has already helped me to gain access to amazing professional opportunities and I know that when I complete my program in August, many more doors will open up for me. When I was separated from the Air Force, I had a feeling of “Oh no! I was not prepared for this and have no idea what I want to be when I grow up!” Learning and growing during the course of my MBA has given me the confidence I need to pursue bigger opportunities without the fear of failure.
What would you tell other professionals with a military background if they asked you about pursuing an MBA/MSA at UCCS?
I would tell them that pursuing higher education is a great investment in their futures, as well as a solid way to build on the amazing skills and education that they have already gained from their military service. With both education and experience, veterans are unstoppable and a tremendous value-add to any workplace. Pursing an MBA at UCCS been a smooth process and enjoyable experience. I have been able to connect with many other Veterans throughout the MBA program, as well as with non-veterans who have challenged my perspective and have helped me see things through a different lens. The Office of Veterans affairs is amazing and makes the G.I. Bill process easy and seamless. Additionally, the academic advising in the College of Business has been so helpful in ensuring that the right path is carved out for each student for their own individual goals pertaining to earning their MBA. Lastly, the services and amenities available to UCCS students are top notch – especially the sweet on-campus gym and the coffee shop on the first floor in Dwire Hall where all the business take place!