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Carlson offers veteran a new start after brain injury

After a 50-foot fall and a brain injury, veteran Brian Grundtner rebuilt his life and found a career in a Carlson program.

On March 19, 2012, Brian Grundtner fell 50 feet during an airborne training jump, sustaining multiple broken bones and a traumatic brain injury.

Four years later, the former special operations staff sergeant overcame his TBI to graduate from the Carlson School of Management with his Masters of Business Administration.

Grundtner, a native of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, said he chose the University for its military veterans MBA program.

“I think the biggest factor for me was the veteran’s initiative and the emphasis on integrating veterans into the whole MBA program,” Grundtner said. “It really helped with the transition out of the military and into the civilian world.”

Retired naval officer Charles Altman, the MBA military veterans program director, said financial assistance make the University’s one of the best programs for veterans.

Twenty percent of Carlson’s full-time MBA students are veterans and all of them get scholarships, Altman said. Those who complete the program have a 100 percent employment rate after graduation.

“In a lot of cases what veterans need more than anything else is a leg up … this funding provides them that,” Altman said, adding he spent time getting to know Grundtner while he was a student.

Dave Hopkins, a professor in Carlson, said Grundtner stood out in his classes as a personable student and hard worker.

“I knew that he had some challenges in overcoming some injuries, but it didn’t impact him with me in any way,” Hopkins said. “He was a great asset to the program.”

Veterans, especially those struggling with trauma and injuries, often struggle to return and translate their military and leadership skills to civilian life, Altman said.

Grundtner’s accident was the start of a long recovery process.

“I was knocked out after I landed. When I woke up, my eyes didn’t work right away,” he said.

Though he didn’t immediately realize the extent of the brain injury, he said he began to notice difficulties with everyday tasks.

“I would be reading a book and the words would all just turn into a bunch of letters,” Grundtner said. “Or if I was sitting in front of a computer screen for more than … 30 minutes I would just get an immense headache.”

He received treatment for over a year at a concussion care clinic at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where he focused on vision therapy and concentration. As a result, he said he hasn’t had a migraine since June 2013.

Grundtner now works in software sales at IBM and spreads the word about TBIs with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center’s initiative “A Head for the Future.”

“Hopefully my participation in this program can connect me with other TBI victims or concussion victims,” Grundtner said, adding he wants to encourage veterans to pursue recovery and careers.

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