MSF candidate Eric Hamilton on leading with empathy

Eric Hamilton professional headshot

Eric Hamilton graduated with a music degree in the middle of the 2008 recession. The high cost meant graduate school wasn’t an option, so he turned to active duty with the military, an option that was a good fit with the Hamilton family’s legacy of military service.

“I am incredibly grateful for my military service,” says Hamilton. “Coming from a small rural town in East Tennessee, the military opened my eyes to the beauty of diversity and teamwork. My view of the world changed almost overnight.”

Hamilton served nine years on active duty with diverse groups of musicians across the country, including playing tuba with the Oregon National Guard Band in Clackamas. From his service, Hamilton developed a variety of transferable skills like discipline, empathy and the ability to balance creativity and meeting requirements in his work.

He also learned the value of resilience. With the support of an incredible Army supervisor, Tracie Whitelaw, Hamilton developed the strength to acknowledge the difficulty of a situation, and move forward exercising tenacity. “I developed a healthy view of adversity, which helped me in pursuing my career pivot,” says Hamilton.

As his military service came to a close, Hamilton began exploring career options, considering music at a graduate level and work in human behavior as a psychologist before deciding on opportunities in business. “I wanted to pursue a career that built upon competencies learned from my time in the military,” he says. “I had been a team leader, public speaker and regular performer. So, I chose to pursue business and explore the variety of disciplines.”

Redefining graduate business culture

When Hamilton’s partner got a job in downtown Portland, he began researching local graduate business schools, including The School of Business at Portland State University (PSU). Hamilton knew he needed a program that would connect him directly with Portland’s business community and aligned with his values. In an interview with The Portland MBA’s academic director, Tichelle Sorensen, he was impressed by the culture of the program and the university: “Her warmth and inviting personality quelled the hesitations I had about pursuing an MBA. When she brought up the importance of empathy in business, I was sold.”

As a member of the full-time 2020 cohort, Hamilton was a leader, supporting his peers through the transition to remote learning and myriad challenges the coronavirus pandemic presented. “I collaborated in real-time with other students in my cohort. We were all there for the same reason,” says Hamilton. “The fellowship of our cohort provided encouragement and support that will last a lifetime.”

The Portland MBA curriculum challenged Hamilton to continue his development as a business leader and collaborator: “The emphasis on self-awareness and the value of being a team player and an empathetic person have been instrumental in my career pivot.”

For him, the structured learning of graduate business education is ideal for supporting his creativity and problem-solving. “The diversity of subjects, people and experiences has been instrumental in my growth,” says Hamilton. “I think the inclusive atmosphere of PSU’s School of Business has helped me explore career options, discover new passions and drive my personal potential.”

Solving tomorrow’s business challenges — today

Hamilton saw the opportunity to deepen his financial and analytical skills, and to have a greater impact in business, by pursuing PSU’s Master of Science in Finance (MSF). “I chose to pursue an MSF because finance drives so many big business decisions,” says Hamilton.

During an experiential learning research fellowship with Beneficial State Foundation, he discovered just how critical it is for businesses to make swift financial assessments and take calculated risks to drive social, ecological and economic impact. “Companies are in a unique position to be a force for good, and sound finance is the bedrock for being a consistent, active agent for positive change,” says Hamilton.

On his next steps and what the future holds, Hamilton speaks to the importance of positivity and a growth mindset: “With increased awareness of deeply systemic injustices, social and economic, I hope this pivotal moment will lead to lasting change and increased empathy.”

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