Blending a Passion for Economics with the Military

By: Sherrie Negrea
Blending a Passion for Economics with the Military

Kelly Ward, MBA ’98

Kelly Ward grew up in rural Cayuga County, N.Y., yearning for the excitement of joining the Army. But after graduating from West Point and serving in Germany and in Kuwait during Desert Storm, his military career took an unexpected turn away from the battlefield.

While serving as a company commander at Fort Carson, Colo., Ward was selected to earn an MBA to prepare him to teach economics at West Point. As a cadet, Ward had earned an A+ in economics, but he said the subject left him “bored to tears” because of the way it was taught.

That all changed, however, when he took economics at Johnson from Professor Michael Waldman — and then taught it in the classroom himself. “I absolutely fell in love with teaching,” he says. “I found it rewarding to see the cadets actually start to understand economics, which could be boring if it’s taught wrong. But if it’s taught in the right way, [it] could become a subject they were enthusiastic about.”

After earning a PhD in applied economics from Pennsylvania State University, his teaching career took him to the National War College in Washington, D.C., a graduate school within the National Defense University, where he is now an associate dean of academic programs and professor of national security strategy. There, Ward teaches strategic thinking and strategic leadership to students who are mid-career professionals from the military services or other federal agencies.

“My job is to teach them a broader viewpoint: how to look at their service or agency and look at what [they] are trying to achieve in order to get the United States’ national interests achieved in the best and most efficient way,” says Ward, who retired as a colonel from the Army.

Ward’s love of the military has been passed down to his children. His daughter is a captain in the Air Force, and he has two sons who are first lieutenants in the Army. “I have three more children and hopefully one will go to the Naval Academy,” he says, jokingly, “so I can get the trifecta of all three branches.”

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