LCDR Michael Cheng celebrated his Norwich graduation with his family in June.

Master Multi-Tasker Flies High with MBA Degree

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The successful pursuit of a Norwich University graduate degree while also serving full-time as a naval officer and starting a family proved to both LCDR Michael Cheng and the U.S. Navy, that he has the right stuff for the Blue Angels.

Cheng, who completed his MBA at Norwich in the spring, was named to a two-year assignment as the event coordinator for the Navy’s acclaimed aerobatic squadron in July.

"Having to multitask, having effective time management skills, and understanding the alligator closest to the boat. All of that combined is what made it possible for me to take on this challenge as events coordinator,” says Cheng. "I don’t think the Norwich MBA necessarily made me more qualified, but I think what it did was show that I could handle all these difficult tasks and was able to prioritize in order to get things accomplished."

Being able to manage a wide range of responsibilities is essential to the event coordinator’s role. During a Blue Angels air show, the event coordinator stands behind the team’s narrator to relay information from the pilots. In addition, Cheng will be responsible for coordinating all of the squadron’s shows beforehand, overseeing safety and logistics. He has to ensure air show sites have followed the Blue Angels support manual, which requires venues to provide items such as cranes for repairs and smoke oil so the jets’ trails are visible. He'll also work with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that the pilots are granted the necessary airspace requirements for the shows.

The Blue Angels, the oldest military aerobatic squadron in the U.S., perform in more than 70 shows annually and are on the road for most of the year.

Cheng had known for about four or five years that he wanted to earn a graduate degree, but wasn’t sure what area he wanted to study. When Cheng learned he could earn a degree through the Navy’s graduate education voucher program he decided to earn an MBA with a concentration in finance.

"I went with what I thought would be beneficial to me once I left the service with everything going on with the economy and in the world," Cheng recalls.  "A friend of mine had earned a graduate degree in military history at Norwich and said it was a great school."

The program’s online format was well suited to Cheng, who served as deputy operations officer at Naval Base Ventura County in California before he was named to the Blue Angels. On top of his duties to the Navy, Cheng's wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter, in 2010.

"The studies were challenging but the most difficult thing was the time commitment, and having to multitask so many things, and I hadn’t been back to school since I was in flight school," says Cheng, a Naval aviator who served in Iraq and Afghanistan flying the S-3 Viking and the EB-6A Prowler.

"When things got too busy, I would ask if I could turn in my assignment late and many times, the professors were flexible with that," adds Cheng. "I never did turn one late because I always found the time to get it done."

Another difficulty for Cheng was that he wasn’t practicing what he was learning on an everyday basis, but in the end the experience was worth the time and effort.

"I had no contact with finances, other than personal. My job didn’t require that specialization," he says. "I thoroughly enjoyed the theories and aspects of management and leadership. It was harder for me to grasp and understand the financial aspects because I never touched those things in the Navy. But, in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the learning process."