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UI director named to defense board

BY MADISON BENNETT | APRIL 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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In 1967, John Fraser was a search and rescue helicopter pilot in charge of looking for John McCain during the Vietnam War.

"When you're 22, 23, 24, and you've been trained, and you're invincible — it's just something you have to do," he said. "If I had to do that today? I think I'd be a little more stressed."

That military experience helped Fraser, the outgoing director of the executive M.B.A. program in the Tippie School of Management at the University of Iowa, earn a spot on the board for the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Defense Secretary Robert Gates appointed Fraser to the board last week.

In May, Fraser will travel to Washington D.C. for his first board meeting. He said his new role is a great way to give back.

"I used to, in a more direct way, feel like I was really helping my nation," Fraser said. "This is the first time in sometime that I've been able to do something more for my country."

Fraser is a retired Navy captain and served seven years in active duty. He served for 18 years in the Naval Air Reserve, eventually becoming a commanding officer. He said the "heavy duty" experience will enable him to relate to the military responsibility of some of the students.

The National Defense University, founded in 1976, was started when officials realized there was a need to educate officers beyond battlefield tactics.

"Somebody's reaction to a situation might be 'We need to go bomb them,' whereas our students might say 'Why? What are the other options of national power?' It makes people take a step back and think through a situation," said David Thomas, the director of public affairs for the university.

The graduate institution focuses on the four elements of national power: diplomatic, international, military, and economic. The university features five colleges and a number of associated research centers.

Students, who are largely high-ranking officers around 40 years old, are taught how to think through issues they will encounter, as opposed to tactics on a battlefield, Thomas said.

"Students are at a point in their careers where they're being sent back to college for a graduate degree by their agency or military service because those organizations see a potential in them for the future," he said. "You produce a group of people who are taught to look and understand issues from different perspectives."

Typically board members are appointed because of extensive experience in one of three areas: military, industry, or academia, Fraser said.

"I don't have tremendous experience in any one," the 67-year-old said. "But I have a lot of experience in all three."

He has been at the UI since 1997 and received the Executive M.B.A. Award from the Executive M.B.A. Council in November 2010.

"You have to have done a few things in life to be on people's radar screens, so it's certainly an honor," he said.

Soon, he'll join esteemed members of the military, business, and academic worlds.

"He's a great guy, extremely energetic and dedicated to doing any task he undertakes in a thorough, excellent way," said UI business Professor Frank Schmidt.


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