Geoffrey Easterling, pictured center, was a U.S. Army Assistant Squadron Operations Officer.
Geoffrey Easterling, MBA 21, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan before coming to Haas, is taking on a new role here as the newly-elected president of the MBA Association (MBAA), the full-time MBA student government body. We talked to Easterling about his upbringing, military service, and his plans as MBAA president.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Columbia, MD, outside of Baltimore. At the time, it was America’s first planned community. It was very utopian in a way. Everything was very egalitarian. For example, no schools could have lights at their football stadiums or new books until all 12 schools could afford them. There was purposely low-income housing developments built next to million-dollar houses. It was just a very different way of seeing the world. That was something that I was always very proud of and gives me hope that everyone in world can work well together. However, I didn’t realize at the time that that wasn’t how the rest of the world worked.
I went to West Point for my undergraduate studies. I wanted to play football and it was the only football school that recruited me so that’s where I was going. I loved West Point. I met people from all over the world. I travelled a lot and I think I gained a greater understanding and respect for what it takes to make this whole country and planet tick.
What was it like serving in the military?
I came straight from West Point to my first unit in Fort Hood, Texas. Three months later, I was deployed to Afghanistan. I was a fire direction officer and counterfire officer, which are two jobs relating to rockets, bombs, and artillery. I learned about myself and leading others and having a little grace and patience. You don’t realize how good you have it in America and how different things could’ve gone until you take the time to meet with an Afghan local. That was an experience I needed to have.
Did you always want to go to business school?
I didn’t always know that I wanted to go to business school. I found Haas because my former boss, Kendrick Vaughn, MBA 16, went to Haas. I always had the utmost respect for him. He was the kind and smart leader that I wanted to be. If this [Haas] business program can help me become half as smart and talented as he is, then I will have made the right decision.
What drew you to Haas?
At the end of the day, I wanted to be around the kind of people whom I’d met at Haas. The other big draw was as a veteran coming from diversity. I appreciated the fact that Haas was very upfront in saying, ‘Hey, there’s a diversity problem here and we’re trying to fix it.’ I like that people owned up to it and that they had a clear and articulate plan that seemed to be working to improve the number of veterans, to improve the number of women, to improve the number of African Americans.
What would you like to accomplish as MBAA president?
One, the main goal so far is to really celebrate the culture of Haas.
Two, taking the next step in diversity and inclusion. There are plenty of ways to change what it means to be inclusive, but what I’m going to focus most on is making sure our entire community feels included. Also, I want to make sure we engage with Haasies from all six degree programs.
Three, I plan on working with as many faculty and staff members as possible to make sure that we’re in tune with their goals for the school. I hope to speak with the dean, DEI officer, and other key leaders. I’ve already been in conversation with some program officers, but there are 12 people on our board, so there’s plenty of conversation to go around.
Where can people find you on campus?
I’m usually in the MBAA lounge at Haas or the stadium gym. I’m back and forth between those places.
What are you most excited about this year?
I’m unbelievably excited to work with my board members. I have the most amazing board. I think they represent the best of our school, which is already an amazing group of people. Our board spans the entire gamut. We have people from across the United States, Asia, South America, men, women, Latinx, black. I think that the Haas community is well represented and we’re proud of that representation. We look forward to serving our Haas family.