Reaching New Heights in the Air Force: Don Miller '18 MBA

Don Miller '18 MBA, Aircraft Maintenance Section Chief, U.S. Air Force

Don Miller

Don Miller ’18 MBA is interested in elevation. As an aircraft maintenance section chief in the U.S. Air Force, he prides himself on elevating his team and, quite literally, the planes they maintain. And now, upon earning his latest academic credential—an MBA from the Eller College of Management—he’s hoisting himself to new heights, as well.

In February 2019, the Air Force reservist and civilian military technician was selected to go from enlisted to commissioned officer—an accomplishment he says was made possible, in part, through his Eller Online MBA degree.

“A big reason I was selected as a commissioned officer is because I had my MBA,” he says.

Miller, who is stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, says even as a student he could see the value of the University of Arizona program translating into real life. Its focus on identifying and implementing process improvements was particularly beneficial to his daily work—and impressive to his commander.

“When I was going through the program, we had a lot going on in the military that required us to evaluate our performance,” he recalls. “I had a Six Sigma Black Belt-certified commander at the time, and he was totally blown away with how I reported everything—and it was all based on what I had learned in the program.”

He notes the knowledge he gained also helped enhance his leadership skills. In his current position, he heads a team of about 30 people who work to maintain aircraft on the base.

“I stepped into this new position a year and a half ago, and the Eller MBA program has been invaluable,” he says. “I have the tools to mentor my team about everything from finance and retirement to working in Excel. And we’ve looked through and renovated every program in our squadron—all through skills I learned from Eller.”

His ultimate goal, and what he says was his initial motivation to pursue an MBA, is to get into contract management with the Air Force.

“I’m still pursuing it,” he says. “I’ve been talking to the career field managers and I’m trying to get into an internship program, but it’s a very competitive field.”

Miller notes that the internship requires a 4.0 GPA—and fortunately he has one. The achievement renders him a member of the international business honor society Beta Gamma Sigma.

“I spent countless hours putting in a lot of work,” he says of maintaining his high marks, adding it was all worth it in the end. “Eller’s program exceeded my expectations. Everything seemed to align with my work—the courses were really thorough, and the professors were very responsive and helpful. Even online, it felt like a community.”

Miller was able to experience the UA community in person during commencement—an honor he says was made even more meaningful since he missed his undergraduate ceremony from Brandman University in 2015.

“I was deployed at the time, so I definitely wanted to make it this time,” he says. “The campus experience was awesome, and it meant a lot to me to walk—it completed the whole process.”