DCP Offered Army Officer Two Master’s Degrees and Path to Comptroller Career
Maj. Emily Burkhardt
The program offered a balance that really helped me. I had to learn how to study again and how to manage my time, but my full-time job was to work on my master’s degrees — something the Army supported. I also found a community of friends and had time to enjoy the beauty of Central New York.
Maj. Emily Burkhardt ’20 MBA/EMPA (WSM/MAX) joined the U.S. Army in 2012 as an officer after graduating from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science. She knew she wanted to pursue a military career in administrative health care, but she didn’t know that would ultimately take her from the cold of Alaska to the heat of San Antonio and back to chilly Upstate New York, where she would attend Syracuse University’s Defense Controllership Program (DCP) at the Whitman School.
Her first assignment was as a medical service corps officer (70B) in Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where Burkhardt coordinated and advised unit commanders and staff. She served as the treatment platoon leader, executive officer for the Warrior Transition Unit, and eventually as company commander of the Medical Company, Bassett Army Community Hospital. While stationed in Alaska, she earned the highly coveted Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB) and was then assigned as the EFMB test control officer out of the Army Medical Command, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
It was during her company command time that she decided to pursue becoming a medical service comptroller. There were only a few educational options, but a close colleague and mentor suggested Syracuse University’s DCP. Not only could she earn two master’s degrees: an MBA from the Whitman School of Management and an executive master’s degree in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, but Syracuse’s DCP also offered an advanced study in healthcare management. Several of her mentors had been through Syracuse’s DCP and touted the positives of functioning as a typical student, while also being surrounded by other military officers and GS civilian (federal government) employees. As a bonus, her dad is a huge Syracuse basketball fan, which helped to seal the deal!
Burkhardt was accepted into the DCP program in May 2019, while her husband stayed in San Antonio for the year. She described the DCP as intense with a combination of technical classes and courses that also covered topics like management, accounting and soft skills critical to business.
“The program offered a balance that really helped me. I had to learn how to study again and how to manage my time, but my full-time job was to work on my master’s degrees — something the Army supported,” she says. “I also found a community of friends and had time to enjoy the beauty of Central New York.”
Burkhardt’s 14-month program did not finish as expected. In March 2020, she went back to San Antonio for spring break — but never returned because the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She completed the rest of the program online, earning dual master’s degrees. Burkhardt adapted and was glad to be reunited with her husband, although she missed having a formal graduation on campus.
After completing the DCP, she went into a required internship back at Brooke Army Medical Center, the only Level I trauma center within the Department of Defense (DOD). There, she shadowed the comptroller and chief of resource management, passed the oral boards for the comptrollership program and, in 2021, was assigned to a new post as comptroller/chief financial officer (CFO) for the Guthrie Army Health Clinic at Fort Drum in Upstate New York.
Burkhardt enjoyed her new responsibilities and the ability to use the skills she learned in the DCP. Her most recent accomplishment, however, is her newborn son. After her maternity leave ends in July, she will return to Fort Drum as CFO at the health clinic, as well as take on additional responsibilities as the deputy commander for resource operations.
“It’s been a fulfilling journey, and the DCP at Syracuse University was an important part of making that happen,” she says. “I’m excited to see what I can accomplish at Fort Drum over the next two years and look forward to continuing to advance my career in the U.S. Army.”By Caroline Reff