From Military Service to Executive: Dustin Roberts

Dustin Roberts, MBA '25, embodies resilience, advancement, and achievement in navigating career transitions. Having engaged in William & Mary's Veteran-to-Executive (W&M VET) Certificate Program: Flourishing Through Life Transitions, he offers insights into his transformative experience and its significant influence on his shift from military service to the executive world in a most recent Q&A session.

How did W&M's VET Certificate Program contribute to your professional growth and successful transition from military service to the executive realm?

Entering the program, I had already set my sights on pursuing my MBA at W&M. Participating in the program provided me with an invaluable head start in navigating this new professional landscape. Through VET, I gained a deeper understanding of my own identity, clarified my career aspirations, and honed essential skills in communication and networking. It set me on a trajectory toward greater clarity and effectiveness in both my professional endeavors and personal ambitions.

What specific skills or knowledge did you gain during the program that you found most valuable in your career transition?

In the program, we delve deeply into the facets of identity, communication, and translation, each playing a pivotal role in the transition process. As highlighted earlier, self-discovery is a significant component facilitated through various means, including personality assessments. For veterans transitioning, there's often a sense of losing a part of oneself and grappling with a redefined identity. The program serves as a guide to reconnect with who you are now, acknowledging the transformation undergone during service.

Moreover, effective communication is emphasized, recognizing the shift in dynamics when interacting as a civilian. This entails articulating thoughts and ideas and understanding the nuances of civilian discourse and workplace culture. It's about adapting communication styles to resonate within this new environment.

Additionally, translation stands as a crucial aspect of the veteran's journey. It involves the skill of articulating military experiences and achievements in terms that are understandable to civilians. This process bridges the gap between the language and culture of the military and that of the civilian workforce, ensuring that the value and relevance of a veteran's background are effectively communicated and appreciated. Through focused attention on identity, communication, and translation, the program equips participants with the tools to navigate this intricate transition successfully.

In what ways did the program's structure and curriculum support your unique needs as a veteran seeking an executive role?

The program's structured schedule and comprehensive curriculum were instrumental in addressing my specific needs as a veteran transitioning to an executive role. Returning to a regimented 9 to 5 schedule within a classroom/workplace environment was a significant adjustment after years of military service. The program's daily routine, beginning with breakfast followed by focused class sessions and meetings until midday, provided a sense of familiarity and helped me readjust to the rhythms of civilian life. The structured lunch breaks and intermittent afternoon sessions further facilitated this transition, allowing for necessary rest and reflection while maintaining productivity.

This structured approach aided in re-establishing routine and fostered a conducive learning environment where I could engage with the curriculum and interact with peers effectively. The blend of classroom instruction and practical meetings equipped me with the knowledge and skills essential for executive roles while providing opportunities for networking and collaboration. Overall, the program's thoughtful structure and curriculum played a pivotal role in supporting my transition and preparing me for success in the executive realm.

How did the VET Certificate Program help you overcome challenges commonly faced by veterans entering the corporate or executive environment?

The VET Certificate Program proved instrumental in addressing the common challenges encountered by veterans transitioning into corporate or executive environments. Rather than solely relying on passive learning, the program actively engaged participants by providing ample opportunities to apply and refine newfound skills. Participants were encouraged to step outside their comfort zones and engage with peers and professionals in diverse settings through interactive sessions and practical exercises.

This experiential approach facilitated skill development and fostered personal growth and confidence. By actively participating in discussions, presentations, and collaborative activities, participants could witness their own progress firsthand, as well as the growth of their peers. This hands-on approach to learning accelerated adaptation to the corporate environment and instilled a sense of empowerment and readiness for the challenges ahead.

Would you recommend this program to other veterans considering transitioning to executive roles, and if so, why?

Without a doubt, I wholeheartedly recommend this program to fellow veterans contemplating a transition into executive roles. The program's ability to bring together veterans from diverse backgrounds, ages, and experiences fosters a sense of camaraderie and belonging within the community. As veterans, we understand the unique challenges and opportunities of transitioning to civilian life. Being surrounded by peers with similar experiences can be incredibly empowering and reassuring.

Moreover, the program serves as a reminder that we are not alone in this journey. By connecting veterans in a supportive environment, the program offers invaluable networking opportunities and provides a platform for shared learning and mutual support. This sense of solidarity can be immensely comforting and motivating, especially during times of uncertainty or self-doubt.

Ultimately, I believe that the program's emphasis on community, support, and shared experiences makes it an invaluable resource for veterans pursuing executive roles. It equips participants with essential skills and knowledge and fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie that is crucial for a successful transition.

Is there anything else you want to share or include that might help someone decide if this path is right for them?

In considering whether the VET program is the right path for you, it's essential to recognize the potential value beyond the immediate skill development and career preparation. While it's highly improbable that the program will yield no benefits, even in the worst-case scenario, the network and sense of community it provides are invaluable assets.

Participating in the VET program signifies a proactive approach to shaping your future and a personal and professional growth commitment. By engaging with like-minded veterans who share similar aspirations, you expand your professional network and gain a support system invested in your success.

Furthermore, the relationships forged during the program have the potential to extend beyond its duration. Some of the individuals you meet may become lifelong friends or valuable professional contacts, enriching your personal and professional life in ways you may not have experienced before.

Reflecting on my own journey, as someone who lacked a strong network following my military service, I realize that the connections made through the program have been invaluable. They have provided support, guidance, and opportunities for collaboration that have significantly impacted my trajectory.

Beyond the tangible benefits of skill development and career preparation, the VET program offers a sense of community and belonging that is often invaluable in navigating the complexities of post-military life. If you're seeking a program and a supportive community invested in your success, then the VET program may be the right path for you.

About the Program

The William & Mary Veteran-to-Executive (W&M VET) certificate program - Flourishing Through Life Transitions, is built upon a holistic framework that prioritizes wellness and self-discovery. This comprehensive curriculum harnesses the collective strengths found throughout the William & Mary community.

Jonathan "JD" Due, as Executive Director of the Center for Military Transition, plays a pivotal role in guiding individuals through the complex questions that arise during the transition from military to civilian life. According to Due, this program's participants strive to bridge their extensive military backgrounds with high-caliber education and meaningful connections to fortify their next endeavor.

In his role as Associate Vice President for Health & Wellness and Director of the Center for Mindfulness & Authentic Excellence, Kelly Crace highlights the profound transformation experienced by participants in the program. According to Crace, individuals embark on a courageous journey towards cultivating a deeper and more nurturing connection with their values, uncertainties, and self-care practices through collaborative endeavors. The outcome is an authentic, purpose-driven method of navigating life transitions imbued with resilience and optimism.

Participants in this program will acquire invaluable skills and perspectives and join a supportive community committed to fostering personal and professional development. With the application cycle closing on April 30, 2024, ensure you don't miss this opportunity by submitting your information before the deadline.

To discover more about the application process and gain further insights into this transformative program, please get in touch with us at Take the first step towards realizing your potential and shaping a thriving future today.