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Serving Those Who Serve: Military Leader Mark Campbell Shares His Experience and Insights On What Makes a Values-based Leader


One of the best manifestations of authentic servant leadership is exhibited through the brave men and women who serve our country—putting the needs and safety of others before themselves. Tenured Military leader and Graziadio alum Mark Campbell (MBA ‘05) understands the sacrifices military personnel make for their country. During the beginning of his graduate career at Graziadio, Mark was mobilized to deploy to Iraq in one week. 

He credits Graziadio faculty and the student body for being incredibly supportive during a time of ambiguity with his scheduling and return to the states. Mark has an extensive amount of experience both in the military as well as in the business sector. He provides thoughtful advice on being successful in school, life, and as a values-based leader. We are incredibly proud to call Mark a Graziadio alum and look forward to how we will continue to be a trailblazer as a Best for the World Leader. Read his full story and interview below! 



Firstly, thank you so much for serving our country. It’s an honor to speak with you, and I have so much admiration for service. Could you please provide me with background regarding your experience in the military?

I graduated from Fordham University in 1995 and went through Officer Candidates School during that time. Upon graduation, I was commissioned as an Officer in the Marine Corps. During the initial six months of Basic Officer Training, I was assigned the Specialty of Amphibious Assault. I led a platoon of about 50 Marines and 12 armored vehicles that float in the water and can traverse most terrain on land. During that time, I went to Japan and Korea.

I left active duty in 1999 but went back on active duty after 9/11. During that time, I worked as an intelligence planner developing training scenarios for the Marine units that deploy aboard ships. During this time, I applied for and was accepted into the International Business program at Pepperdine Graziadio.

I left active duty but joined a reserve Armored Reconnaissance unit. The unit was called up in February of 2003 after a few months into my MBA program. We deployed to Iraq from March 2003 to September 2003 at the tail end of the invasion of Iraq and the beginning of the insurgency. I took a break from the Marine Corps reserve when I did my study abroad at INCAE in Costa Rica. When I graduated, I took a job with AT&T in their Leadership Development program in the Bay Area. I also became a Company Commander of an Armored Recon unit in Utah.

In June 2007, we mobilized to deploy to Iraq from November 2007 to May 2008. I did a couple of military schools and a brief reserve assignment in Hawaii. In 2010 I was selected for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. At that time, I took an active duty assignment to Marine Forces Central Command in Tampa, Florida. The HQ in charge of Marines in the Middle East includes Iraq and Afghanistan. I was the Force Deployment Officer in charge of moving all Marines and Equipment in and out of the Middle East. I did that for three years.

I was then selected as a Battalion Commander for the Amphibious Assault Battalion in the Marine Corps Reserve. The unit grew from 600 Marines to 1000 during my two years in charge. At that point, I took an assignment at Special Operations Command also in Tampa, Florida. I was in charge of conducting Headquarters Training for Special Operations Headquarters that were deploying to Combat Zones.

When that assignment ended, I did an individual deployment to Afghanistan. I was the liaison officer between the Marine Corps and the US Headquarters in Afghanistan. During that time, I was selected for promotion to Colonel. When that assignment ended and I returned home, I had to find a position for a Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve.

That job is the Deputy Current Operations Officer for the Marine Corps HQ in Okinawa, Japan. I run the operations during various exercises for the Marine Expeditionary Force HQ. Naturally, with the pandemic, I have not been over there since January of 2020. Still, with the vaccine availability, I plan to head over for some exercises in the next couple of months.

Why did you choose to pursue your MBA? What drew you to Pepperdine Graziadio and the MBA program?

I would say that two main reasons pursued the Graziadio program. The first was that the International MBA program was unique among all the MBA programs that I looked at. I had spent a little time overseas and was interested in a long-term career with an international component. Second, the program was highly immersive from the standpoint of language training and cultural familiarity. The faculty and staff ensured that you were set up for success when you went to your school outside of the US.

The second reason was the culture of ethics and that the school has an actual moral center. You also have to appreciate that I started the program in 2002. This was right after the “Dotcom” bubble and the Enron scandal, among others. There was a lot of focus on how the business community had lost its way. There were a lot of discussions about that in the courses that I took.

Also, that type of environment was familiar and comfortable to me. I had attended 14 years of Catholic School. First grade through college except for junior high. Being a Marine Corps Officer, you also talk a lot about ethics and morality: black, white, and grey. It made Pepperdine stand out from the other programs out there.

It was mentioned that you were called to serve in Iraq during the start of your program. How did Pepperdine help support you? And what was that experience like? 

I started with the program in 2002 when the build-up before the Iraq War was occurring. I was assigned to a Marine Corps Armored Reconnaissance Reserve unit. I would go to Drill with them once a month while in the MBA program. We heard that the unit might be called up, but there was nothing certain for most of the time before mobilization. Once my Active-Duty friends started deploying to Kuwait, I began to assume that we would also deploy. The Marine Corps is not as large as the Army or other services. If there is a significant conflict, almost everyone from the Marine Corps goes, Active Duty and Reserve.

I think it was Mid-February 2003 when I received a call on a Monday telling me that I had to report to Camp Pendleton for Mobilization on Friday. At that time, I told the Administration. They told me that they would support what I needed to do and that my spot in the program would be waiting for me when I returned. Most of the rest of that week was spent on logistics (what to do with my apartment, car, how to keep the bills paid) when I would have no way to contact the outside world. Keep in mind that this is long before there were large bases with internet access. 

I deployed from March 2003 to September 2003. We were one of the Last Marine Corps Units to return to the states before Marines were sent back to Iraq in late 2004. My fellow students sent me a steady stream of care packages and letters.

I arranged to return to the program in February 2004, one year after I left. Since I would go to Costa Rica for the International portion of my program in the fall of 2004, I would have a gap in my program either way. I stayed on active duty from September to February. I attended a Marine Corps School and met my wife during this time.

When I returned to the program, I joined the class that had started in the fall of 2003. The staff ensured that I got onto the courses that I needed to complete my schedule before going to INCAE in Costa Rica. In one case, my accounting professor worked with me one on one since there was no regular group class that would support my timeline. I also want to point out that this was before the US sent troops overseas to combat for a couple of decades. This was a new situation for both Pepperdine and me, and they handled it with as much compassion and flexibility that I could ask for.

Provide some background on what you do now as a chief marketing officer of Equitus. What do you love about marketing?

My job title is a bit of a misnomer. I am in charge of all sales, business development, and capture for my company. I was originally also in charge of Marketing, although we did not have much of a budget for it then. Since I approve the final copy, we have since brought on a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) who runs the marketing effort. I will explain a little about my company, giving context to what I like about my role. Equitus is an AI/ML company that provides data analytics and intelligence platforms. We are currently focused on the Defense Department and Federal Government but have plans to move into the Commercial Sector.

My role is to present solutions to people experiencing the same problems in a long Military Career. We are building solutions that I wish were available to me in the Marine Corps. We have several use cases that get at the most complex and challenging DOD and Federal Government problems. The company is a part tech start-up and part defense contractor. We are addressing challenging issues and building a dynamic team.

Do you have any advice for current or future students about earning an MBA? What do you believe makes a successful values-based leader?

The first thing I would say is to do the work. I know it sounds a bit simplistic, but I was much more focused on my academic success in my Master’s Program than in undergrad. There is an incredible faculty at Pepperdine and having access to them is something that the students won’t appreciate until they are a few years out of the program.

The second piece of advice is to build your network. The students you will interact with are second to none, and they will go on to great things. I saw two of my classmates last year, and I have been out of the program for 16 years and live in Florida. Yet, I still tap into my network regularly. This is something that I have also learned from a long Military career as well. If you are spending your time around the right people, those who are hardworking, innovative, and genuinely fun to be around, this will be easy.

As far as being a values-based leader, I have a couple of things to say. First, think of others much more than yourself and think of your mission more than yourself. Students will feel that this applies more to those who will take on a manager role. It does not. If you graduate from the Graziadio MBA program, you will be a leader. Even if you do not have a leadership role in your job, you will be a leader in the community.

I think that when it comes to ethical and moral decisions, most people know the right choice. The problem is that it is often a difficult choice. The longer you take to act, the more difficult that choice will become. A common phrase for success is that you are your habits, and I believe that, but it also applies to your standards of ethical and moral behavior. The more you practice ethical behavior, the easier it will become because deviating from the path is not something you do.