From the Marines to an MBA

by Jennifer Johnson,

Herschel Mapes ’16, MBA ’17 finds a refreshing challenge after choosing a nontraditional path.


Herschel Mapes MBA ’17 joined the Marines after high school to explore the world and grow as a person. As far as college? No, thanks. He was smart enough.

Mapes traveled all over. He spent a year each in Germany, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Arab Emirates working as a security guard. At one point, he participated in security operations during two visits by former President George W. Bush.

Raised in a low-income family, Mapes says the opportunity to serve some of the world’s highest-profile leaders bolstered his confidence. Yet, he says, he still felt “stupid.” Surrounded by extremely well-educated officials, he knew he needed a higher education.

“I came to the understanding that I wasn’t quite as intelligent as I thought after high school,” he says. “In order to push myself further, learn more and get more out of life, I needed to attend a university.”

Opening to new experiences

So, at 27, Mapes applied only to Willamette. He was interested in attending a good school and, as a native of Stayton, Oregon, he was also familiar with Willamette and its reputation for academic excellence and investment in student success.

He decided on a politics major. Beyond his passion for the subject, Mapes believes politics can change the world, if used ethically and effectively. He also opted for Willamette’s combined BA/MBA degree program, which allowed him to start his MBA during his senior year.

Throughout his time at Willamette, Mapes was inspired by the younger students he met who didn’t limit themselves when they set their goals. For the first time, he felt he could do the same.

“Despite the fact that I lived abroad for many years, Willamette definitely opened my mind to new experiences and people,” he says. “I’m pleased I was able to be part of such a well-respected and smart group of people who really strive to learn and contribute so much to the community.”

Over the last two years in the MBA program, Mapes has directly applied his knowledge and skills to the working world. For a class in the Angel Investment Fund experiential learning program, he and a partner analyze and invest in local start-ups. They’ve been flying to the Bay Area once a month to listen to pitches from entrepreneurs, similar to ABC’s show “Shark Tank.” The class invests real funds in a number of ventures per year, with oversight from an advisory board. Students also attend conferences and learn tips from professional investors.

Real-world skills

Mapes also found his MBA internship valuable. Last May, he snagged a spot with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) as a project governance intern. He applied the skills he’d learned in the Marines and during his MBA, such as project and time management and how to effectively write policy.

But Mapes squeezed in some fun, too. He participated in several Willamette clubs and activity-based learning experiences, including men’s rowing, Model United Nations, Outdoor Club and Beta Theta Pi.

After his ODOT internship ends in May, Mapes is considering jobs ranging from product management to consulting work for companies. He also hasn’t ruled out a career as a public diplomacy officer in the U.S. Foreign Service.

For this globetrotting former Marine, Willamette degrees have opened up a new world of possibilities.

This is the second in a series of four profiles of May 2017 graduates.
Related Story

New developments in student career services

The summer brings changes in the Office of Career Development.

${alt}
Related Story

Jade Aguilar named Willamette’s VP of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Sociology’s Jade Aguilar accepts three-year post.

${alt}