Brig.-Gen. Mike Jorgensen is far from your typical MBA student. He’s never worn a business suit to work, and he’s not spent years climbing the corporate ladder in anticipation of a plum position.
It might come as a bit of a surprise then that Jorgensen, 53, a native of Copenhagen, Denmark, who moved to Canada in 1968, would choose to pursue an MBA to cap off an illustrious 29-year career in the Canadian Forces that has taken him to such places as Bosnia, Croatia, Germany and even Cyprus, where he was the humanitarian and economics officer attached to the UN protection force. He also served as a brigade chief of staff during the 1997 Winnipeg flood and as a battalion commander during Quebec’s ice storm a year later. But for Jorgensen, the decision to do his MBA made sense. “For senior officers, there’s a requirement to undertake graduate studies,” he says, “so that certainly was one driving factor. But even without that, my own interest was to see if I could still manage to accomplish something like that.”
After investigating several programs, Jorgensen decided on Cape Breton University’s MBA in community economic development. The clincher: courses in emergency management and peace-building — two areas directly linked to his military career.
Flexibility was an added bonus. Jorgensen worked with program director George Karaphillis to accelerate his studies from two years to 18 months because he only had that much time available before he was to be transferred to Western Canada. This past June, Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie promoted Jorgensen from colonel to brigadier-general, three ranks below chief of the defence staff, which is the highest rank in the Canadian Forces. A few weeks later, while completing his 150-page major research essay on peace-building in Afghanistan, Jorgensen was packing his bags and getting ready for his new post as commander of Land Force Western Area at Edmonton Headquarters, which includes British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. He’s responsible for approximately 6,000 regular force troops, 5,000 reservists, and 1,200 civilian employees, and also oversees troop training.
While he’s expected to remain stationed there for another two years, the adventure is far from over. Jorgensen will be playing a major role in the security operations for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but that’s probably not the only mission on the horizon. He hasn’t exactly ruled out the possibility of trying his hand at some sort of enterprise in the future, but for now he’s focused on his current position. In the future, he has a desire to deploy to Afghanistan in a senior leadership role in order to make a sustainable, fundamental contribution to success there. Says Jorgensen: “I expected to go on a tour when I first started the program, and I still do.”