A Servicewoman Brings Battlefield Courage to the Business World

As a former U.S. Army Police Team Leader, Kathe Pratt learned to handle a life-threatening crisis. As acting squad leader, she took charge and led her team through harrowing circumstances such as the day a SVBIED hit her SUV convoy in Iraq.

Kathe credits her take-charge attitude to her New Hampshire youth, where long, harsh winters hardened residents. “I gained something from that,” she says. “You go about life no matter what nature throws at you.”

While it was tempting to stay in the cocoon of New Hampshire, Kathe felt disconnected from the rest of the world. She wanted to do something other than go in the same direction. She says she was always a patriotic person, but 9/11 provided the extra push.

She enlisted in the Army in 2002. Kathe served two years in Seoul, spent time on a base in upstate New York, deployed to Iraq for a year. Upon her return, she earned her undergraduate degree in sociology — summa cum laude — at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania in 2010.

After her graduation she and her husband spent two years in South Korea’s Camp Stanley. During his service, they became the parents of twins and found themselves stateside again, this time at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina.

It was there Kathe wondered what might be next for a 30-year-old veteran and new mother of twins?  “I wanted something that would tie all the various experiences of my life together,” says Kathe.

With one year left on her GI Bill, Kathe began investigating MBA programs. It wasn’t long before she discovered the University of South Carolina MBA. “What attracted me to the program was the one-year format and the fact that it was very international,” she explains. “Plus, a lot of my classmates were International MBA students, so there was an international aspect of the one-year program as well.”

While proximity factored in her decision, Kathe doesn’t think there would have been a better choice than UofSC. “The program length was perfect. Class size was perfect. And everyone in the program was there to help. I don’t know if that would have been the case in a bigger school,” she says.

While boosting her earning potential was one motivation to getting an MBA, she believes the Moore School brought more to the table than just that.

Not only did Kathe earn a Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics alongside her MBA, she further sharpened her quantitative skills in cross-campus classes offered at the UofSC College of Engineering and Computing. The program also bolstered her presentation skills. “Before I completed my MBA, I hated presenting,” she says. “The program encouraged me to get in front of the class and enabled me to deliver professional presentations. Becoming more comfortable and confident in myself was one of the most valuable parts of the program.”

Today, Kathe is district manager for ALDI USA, a German supermarket chain, in Virginia. She’s responsible for hiring and coaching store managers as well as ensuring optimal staff performance. Managing others blends her past and present skills — her military service helps her be concise while the MBA education gave her confidence in a private sector civilian setting. 

Kathe says she never would have been considered for the position she now holds — nor any executive position — armed only with an undergraduate degree in sociology.

For Kathe, getting an MBA wasn’t a post-military Plan B. It was a path to where she always wanted to go. 

She found the career she’s longed for in a place that recognized the value of who she already was.