From Philadelphia to the Coast Guard Academy

Wharton MBA graduate and lieutenant commander Nicholas ‘Nick’ Martin to teach marketing to ‘the next generation of officers.’

Nick Martin stands with arms crossed in front of Huntsman Hall
Nicholas “Nick” Martin, who graduated from the Wharton School’s MBA program on May 14, is a non-traditional student. (Image: Eric Sucar)

Nicholas “Nick” Martin, who graduated from the Wharton School’s MBA program on May 14, is a nontraditional student. He’s in the Coast Guard and married, with two children. And while he concentrated in marketing, one of Martin’s most memorable classes at Penn was a narrative nonfiction course at the Kelly Writers House.

Originally from State College, Pennsylvania, Martin attended a military junior college in Roswell, New Mexico, before going to the Coast Guard Academy, a four-year institution in New London, Connecticut, where he studied operations research and computer analysis, which Martin says was “essentially math.”

He recounts being deployed to Seattle, spending two years on a 378-foot ship, where he was introduced to a range of Coast Guard missions, from counter-narcotics to search and rescue, traveling from offshore Colombia to the Arctic Circle, and where he saw the Northern Lights for the first time. “Unfortunately, we had some serious boiler issues, so the trip went from cool to actually very, very cold, probably the coldest I have ever been,” he says.

During his assignments in Ketchikan, Alaska; Washington, D.C.; Galveston, Texas; and Philadelphia, Martin got married to Larissa Kunes Martin, had two children named Quinton and Macaulay, applied and was accepted to be a marketing instructor at the Coast Guard Academy. He then applied and was accepted to Wharton to get his MBA. 

The instructors at the Academy are a rotating cadre of officers, Martin says. Many of them are married with children, and they served as role models for him, helping him to plan a career. 

Martin has spent nine years in the Coast Guard, six of those years on ships. “I get seasick,” he says. “So, it’s not like I love being on a ship. But what I found out is that I really love the teams, teaching and leading and helping people learn their jobs. I kept going back to sea because I had those opportunities.”

Nick Martin stands against a red sandstone building, with foliage in the foreground
Originally from State College, Pennsylvania, Martin is an active-duty lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard. This fall, he’ll be teaching marketing to college students at the Coast Guard Academy. (Image: Eric Sucar)

Following his mentors’ example, Martin applied for a four-year stint teaching at the Coast Guard Academy. “It can be hard to find jobs where you feel that you’re making a big impact,” he says. “I think teaching is one that is obvious. At the Academy, I’m going get to teach the next generation of officers every single day for four years.”

Marketing incorporates math and data along with creativity, Martin says. “How do people come up with these great ideas that seem so simple?”

At Wharton, Martin took nine marketing classes, from Consumer Neuroscience to Visual Marketing to Data Analytics for Marketing Decisions, in addition to courses taught by Adam Grant, Angela Duckworth, and Katie Milkman. He also served as a teaching assistant for two communications courses, as well as Retail Supply Chain Management.

The Wharton MBA program requires 21 credits, 19 of which must be from the Wharton School. The other two can be taken across the University. One of Martin’s most memorable courses was an undergraduate narrative non-fiction class taught at the Kelly Writers House by author and journalist Buzz Bissinger. 

“I never had the true liberal arts experience at the Academy, and this class is one of the coolest things I’ve done,” Martin says. “And it is also maybe the hardest class I took, just based on the time and effort it required, coming up with a story and reporting on it and then giving it to my classmates to read. It was nerve-wracking. It was exhausting.”

The class met biweekly, with a thousand-word assignment due each session, when students would critique each other’s work, Martin says. “These undergrads are sharks, man. They’re really good writers.” 

While Martin wanted to become a better writer, he also felt the class would enhance his MBA degree. In business, “you’re selling a story and figuring how to connect with people,” he says.

All in all, Martin had a good experience. People who are married with children might think, “Maybe you’re going to feel like you’re missing out because you’re not a single person living in apartment in Rittenhouse,” he says. But because the student body is so diverse, it’s easy to find a group of people you fit in with, he says.

For Martin, that was the Wharton Basketball Club. In his graduating year, Martin served as co-president for the club, which met every Tuesday night and has games against graduate students from Law, Medicine, Dental and Arts & Sciences.

Martin got to cap off his experience at Penn with a 48-43 win in the league championship game at the Palestra. “It was a long season and I am really proud of how we finished it,” he says.