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Jenkins Online MBA Candidate Begins Coursework from the South Pole

Each semester, the Jenkins Graduate School at Poole College of Management welcomes students with unique backgrounds and experiences into its MBA program. This spring is no different, as Jenkins welcomes Christian Rahl – who has spent the last 14 months in the South Pole – as a part of its most recent class of Jenkins Online MBA students.

Rahl currently works as a senior network engineer with GHG Corporation – a sub-contractor for the Antarctic Support Contract supporting the United States Antarctic Program. 

“I chose NC State due to its high ratings amongst online MBA programs in the U.S.,” Rahl explains. “It also helps that I pay in-state tuition as a resident of North Carolina.”

In his current role with GHG, Rahl supports, builds and improves phone and data networks in the South Pole – which includes assisting with maintenance and operation of radio equipment and satellite communications equipment. 

“One fun fact is that one of the satellites we use, the TDRSS, is regularly used to support the International Space Station, missions to the ISS and Hubble,” he says.

Rahl first heard about the position from a friend, who knew that between Rahl’s various moves growing up – and a love for travel that led him to spend six months driving around the United States – he’d be up to the challenge.

“My friend forwarded the job posting to me, saying ‘you are the only person I know that’s crazy enough to apply and follow through,” Rahl laughs.

He was right.

Rahl headed to the South Pole in November 2019 with the understanding that he’d face an eight-and-a-half month winter, no regular vacation and no flights out – not to mention, a very little chance for rescue during the middle period of winter.

“It’s a tough environment due to a variety of factors,” Rahl explains. “The station is at 9,800 feet altitude – with physiological attitude easily reaching 11,500 feet. We experience temperatures ranging from -100 degrees Fahrenheit to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. And we only see one sunrise and one sunset every year – so we basically experience a one-and-a-half month sunset and sunrise, with nearly three months of pitch black.”

Now, Rahl prepares to embark on a different adventure with Jenkins’ Online MBA program.

“I am looking forward to the new skills and knowledge I will gain from the MBA program, as well as the opportunity to be part of another group of individuals who are currently on tangent paths to each other,” Rahl says. “I know I will benefit from the insights I receive from teachers and peers – especially the insights that are less obvious to me at first.”

With the flexibility of Jenkins’ Online MBA, Rahl was able to extend his contract in the South Pole – and still pursue his degree. 

“Originally, I planned to depart the South Pole in November of last year and then start my MBA. But at the request of the program, I will be staying on until mid-February,” Rahl explains. “The program runs on short contracts due to concerns of mental and physical health, so stays longer than one year are uncommon. But I extended a few months longer to help with projects here at the Pole. With this new change, I plan to take one or two classes my first semester – and take classes that begin in March.”Rahl, who holds a bachelor’s degree in networking and systems administration from Rochester Institute of Technology, plans to continue working in the IT, networking and communications realm.

“Whether I work as a manager of a team, a project manager or a consultant, I hope to continue assisting others with IT decisions,” he says.

He sees getting his MBA as a key step in advancing his career – as it prepares him to take on a new set of challenges.

“With an MBA, I hope to show employers that I am not just a technical resource – but a well-rounded resource capable of managing technically challenging and financially complex projects,” Rahl says.

This post was originally published in Jenkins MBA News.