Deployed MBA student balances school and service

lujana thapa wearing a suit outside

Duty to service and school are what drive Senior Airman Lujana Thapa ’24. Despite being thousands of miles away on deployment in the Middle East, Thapa remains dedicated to her MBA academic goals at the Carlson School.

An immigrant from Nepal, Thapa decided to join the Air Force Reserve to give back to her adopted country. Meanwhile, her corporate experience at Cargill inspired her to pursue her MBA to advance her career. Thapa, a first-generation student, completed her first year of the program in the spring and began her deployment over the summer.

While on her mission overseas, Thapa is pushing herself to fulfill her service duties and stay on top of her studies. She shares how her military experience inspires her and what it takes to stay balanced.

How has your military background helped you in the classroom?

My military journey involved extensive physical and leadership training, fostering a strong sense of discipline within me. This quality has proven highly transferable to my academic life, where I've successfully maintained consistency while managing a demanding course load. The military also places a significant emphasis on collaboration, a valuable trait that aligns well with my MBA program's focus on group projects and team-based learning.

What is it like balancing being a reservist and a full-time student?

When I decided to serve the United States, the military’s mission became my foremost priority. However, as a reservist, I have learned to balance these responsibilities alongside my personal life. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize the importance of maintaining open lines of communication, both with military leadership and academic advisors.

What is it like being deployed as an MBA student? How have you been able to apply certain skills from your classes?

I have definitely started looking at situations with an MBA perspective. As soon as I got to my deployed location, I noticed a substantial consumption of water bottles each week, with no recycling bins in sight. I raised this concern with our commander, who encouraged me to delve deeper. This led to discussions with a brigadier general in the host country’s military and numerous U.S. military leaders.

I then had the opportunity to take the lead in launching a comprehensive recycling initiative across the base. We aimed to target the recycling of 1.8 million plastic bottles per week, potentially resulting in savings of $3 million in waste management expenses. 

What has it been like working with Carlson School faculty and staff to coordinate your academics around your deployment and duties as a reservist?

My academic journey has been seamlessly integrated with my military obligations as I have received support from my professors. Additionally, my academic advisors helped me plan a few classes around my deployment so that I can still graduate on time. And my career advisors are also providing exceptional support as I start investigating job opportunities.

This story was adapted from the original at the Carlson School.