“Over time, you develop more confidence in your own abilities to be a leader at greater levels of responsibility.”

Hollis Christopher Hurst III inherited not only his name, but much of his motivation from his grandfather, a former B-29 radio operator who served in the Pacific during WWII. “My whole upbringing,” Chris says, “I saw in my granddad this intense combination of pride, reflection, sorrow, and patriotism.”  Motivated by his family’s heritage and his experiences as captain of his high school wrestling and cross-country teams, Chris “wanted to explore leadership development – and saw West Point and the Army as a great way to do that.”

After initially serving as an Army Diver, Chris was later deployed to Kuwait and Egypt, where he worked with international partners and supported the flow of engineer troops and materiel into the Middle East. These experiences, plus a subsequent civilian role managing infrastructure planning projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, awakened deeper interests.  “Infrastructure remains deficient in the Middle East,” Chris says, “but often there’s a significant economic element in conflict. People frequently view the legitimacy of a state as a function of their economic well-being. I wanted tools to address underlying economic problems.”

Examining root causes

Determined to “address problems at their root cause,” Chris is pursuing the joint MBA/MPA-ID (International Development) degree at HBS and the Harvard Kennedy School. “In the big picture, I want to address two large questions,” says Chris. “One, how can the international community and the governments of poor countries alleviate extreme poverty, and what might my role in the process be?  Second, given the challenges global competition brings to the US, how might the US retain its competitive position into the 21st century?”

For Chris, “the MPA-ID provides the training to analyze economic and institutional challenges at the macro and micro levels. The MBA provides additional leadership training, and education in marketing, strategy, operations, and finance that can be valuable in either the public or private sector.”

The possibilities for global leadership are being transformed by Chris’ personal growth as a leader. “If you’re from a small town, like I am, you tend to feel that the world is influenced by ‘others’ – people you never see. Then you come here and meet classmates who have had incredible experiences and influence, and over time, you develop more confidence in your own abilities to be a leader at greater levels of responsibility, to serve more people than you previously thought possible.”