MIT denies possible McConnell challenger’s claimed ties to school

Matt Bevin, who is weighing a primary challenge against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has come under scrutiny for claiming educational ties to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Bevin’s LinkedIn page as of Friday evening indicated he was an MIT graduate or graduate of an MIT-affiliated program but school officials say the three-week seminar he attended has no formal link to the school.

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Bevin did not respond to a request for comment about what appeared to be a misleading portrayal of his educational background. His LinkedIn page was revised by Saturday afternoon to clarify that he did not graduate from MIT or an MIT-affiliated program.

Tea Party activists say this could undermine his effort to build credibility among Kentucky conservatives. Bevin, a New Hampshire native, has reached out to Tea Party leaders in recent weeks to boost his profile but he remains little known in conservative political circles.

John Kemper, a spokesman for the United Kentucky Tea Party, said Bevin’s description of his educational background “sounds kind of convoluted.”

“MIT is a well-respected educational institution. If someone is playing on that name, it doesn’t sound like it’s being forthright,” he said.

“Once someone causes you to question something and pull a thread and it comes loose, you want to pull the next thread and see if that’s the only thing that comes loose. What other misleading information are you providing as a candidate?” he added.

In the headline section of his LinkedIn page, Bevin listed his education as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  

Further down his page, Bevin listed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the top of his educational profile. Below that he stated he was a 2008 graduate of the Entrepreneurial Master’s Program at the MIT Endicott campus. He described it as a “renowned executive education program sponsored by the MIT Enterprise Inc. Magazine and the Entrepreneurs Organization.”

The presentation of the information was misleading because it suggested he graduated from an MIT-affiliated program, but MIT officials say it has no connection to the school.

Kate Anderson, the director of marketing and enrollment at MIT’s Sloan Executive Education program said the program “is not an official program offered by MIT, MIT Sloan or MIT Sloan Executive Education.”

“It is not a Masters program, certificate or any other kind of MIT program and does not bear any MIT credit whatsoever,” she said.

She described the MIT Enterprise Forum as “an alumni-created network of loosely affiliated regional groups interested in entrepreneurship, not an official program of MIT.”

“I am afraid the title, the venue and the involvement of the ‘MIT Enterprise Forum’ … are easily misconstrued as implying a connection with MIT which does not exist,” she said.

Anderson was not aware of MIT having an Endicott campus but noted there is an MIT Endicott House. She said it is a conference center owned by MIT and available for hire by outside groups.

Bevin vouched for the accuracy of his LinkedIn profile in an e-mail exchange last week.

“The ‘bio’ that is listed on LinkedIn is the one that is correct as it is the only one that I personally created,” he wrote.

The subject came up for discussion when Bevin was asked about a biography posted on Waycross Partners, an investment advisory firm based in Louisville, that described him as having previously served as the director of product management for Invesco, a global investment firm. Bevin, instead, was the director of product management for Invesco-NAM, a Kentucky-based division of the firm. Waycross Partners, which lists Bevin as a partner and adviser, recently changed the bio.

Bevin’s LinkedIn page underwent substantial revision after The Hill sent him a detailed e-mail about MIT’s disavowal of the Entrepreneurial Master’s program.

The headline section of his page no longer lists his education as having been at MIT. As of 6 pm Sunday, it instead lists his educational experience as “Birthing of Giants/Entrepreneurial Master’s Program at MIT Endicott House.”

The education section of his profile was changed to reflect he attended the Birthing of Giants/Entrepreneurial Master’s program at MIT Endicott House instead of MIT. It dropped the reference to MIT’s Endicott campus, which does not exist.

Bevin did not respond to requests for comment made Friday and Saturday.

Sarah Durand, president of the Louisville Tea Party, who has discussed with Bevin the possibility of running against McConnell, dismissed questions about how he portrayed his educational experience. 

“Nobody really cares about any of this,” she said.

Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which supports conservative primary challengers, also downplayed the issue.

“I don’t know what the specifics were but if it’s not 100 percent accurate, he’s certainly not the first person to puff up his resume. People do this all time. It’s kind of how Mitch McConnell claims to be a big Rand Paul supporter,” Hoskins said in reference to Sen. Rand Paul, who defeated a candidate backed by McConnell in the 2010 Kentucky GOP primary. “He did everything he could to defeat Rand Paul in 2010.”   

But career and résumé experts say many employers would take misleading claims about educational or professional experience on a LinkedIn page seriously.

Wendy Enelow, executive director of the Resume Writing Academy and author of more than 20 résumé and career books, said in an interview Friday that Bevin’s LinkedIn page was misleading.  

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“That implies to me that he attended MIT and if that is not the case then he is misrepresented and included non-accurate information,” she said.

Enelow said the headline section at the very top of Bevin’s LinkedIn page, which listed his education as being at MIT, had created a false impression.

“It could have very easily been accurate had he included the full name of the seminar company. We are led to believe he attended the world-renowned MIT and that is not true,” she said.

Debbie Shalom, founder of Amazing Resumes and Coaching Services, a Maryland-based business, says LinkedIn is an important professional networking service that can be used to build credibility and find employment.

“If there’s one thing that’s going to knock you out of the race is anything that looks suspicious or misleading. I would not advise people to do something if it is misleading,” she said.

Bevin describes the Entrepreneurial Master’s Program as a “three-year program [that] covers six fundamental areas of business: management, finance, human resources, operations, marketing and sales, and research and development”.

But it is unlike many master’s programs where students take several hours of classes and seminars per week over the course of the year. 

Students attend only four days of the seminar in the late spring or early summer of each of the three years, according to a description of the program on Entrepreneurs’ Organization. The seminar totals 12 days.