With a background in mechanical engineering and his seventh year in the Army approaching, Scott Rupnow had to decide whether he wanted to stay in for another twenty years or enter the private sector. It was not an easy decision, particularly since he wasn’t sure what he’d do outside the Army. In the end, he opted to leave, accepting the fact that a life more geographically settled was what he really wanted. His first step was to move back to Chicago, which would be a return home of sorts after ten years away.
By his own admission, Scott is drawn to challenges. He’d chosen to major in mechanical engineering as an undergrad, for instance, at least in part for its well-known difficulty. And yet there was a deeper challenge underlying his choice of major as well—solving the problem of renewable energy. Whether it was switching the power grid to renewables or working on the development of electronic vehicles, Scott had a longstanding interest in figuring out how to reduce our carbon footprint.
“I’d always assumed that the problem of renewable energy was a technological problem,” Scott says, “a problem to be solved by engineers. By the time I left the military, however, that didn’t seem to be the limiting factor anymore. The technology seemed mostly to be in place, so it struck me as more of a business and political problem now. The most effective thing I could do, it seemed to me, was make an argument for renewable energies making better business sense. That’s what brought me around to getting an MBA. I wanted to figure out how to make the choice for renewable energy an economically smart choice.”
If there was any worry Scott had on leaving the military, it was that he’d miss the intense level of structure he’d come to expect out of life in the Army. He’d lived his entire adult life taking for granted that that sort of disciplined hierarchy would be there. He admits that it was his own good fortune that had a friend, shortly after he’d returned to Chicago, tell him about the Graham School’s GSALB program. Already having settled on Chicago Booth as the place for his MBA, his friend let him know that taking classes through the GSALB was a great way to get some advance insight into business school—and Booth in particular—before beginning officially. That the courses he’d take through the GSALB could then be counted toward credit at Booth only sealed the deal for Scott.
“When I heard that,” he says, “it became a no-brainer. I signed up for three classes immediately. That’s also what put an end to any worries I had about the lack structure and discipline affecting my life after leaving the Army. The GSALB classes quickly taught me that if you’re busy enough trying to accomplish something you really want to accomplish; a sense of structure begins to emerge naturally. It’s something I’m confirming all the time now that I’m a full-time Booth student.”