Marine Captain Maura Sullivan wasn't sure what to expect when she was invited to introduce herself as a prospective graduate student during a visit to a Harvard University classroom a few months ago.
Since the late 1960s, the elite Ivy League school had been known as a hotbed of hostility toward the military, and Sullivan had just spent five years as a Marine officer, including a six-month deployment in Iraq. Asked to tell the students what she had been doing over the previous few months, she briefly recounted her stint in the Corps and her tour in Fallujah and waited nervously for the reaction.
To her surprise, "The entire class of 90 students stood up and applauded," Sullivan says. "I was so humbled by that, I walked around and thought, this is the place I have to go to school." Now 27, in the Marine Corps Reserve, and enrolled in a dual-degree program at the Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government, she'll graduate in 2009 with master's degrees in business and in public policy.