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Interview: Erin Nickelsburg of the Wisconsin School of Business

Erin Nickelsburg

In the first in our series of interviews with MBA admissions directors, we spoke with Erin Nickelsburg of the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s School of Business about how to approach applications if you’re a seeking a specialization, are a career changer, or don’t come from a traditional MBA background.

Wisconsin offers several MBA specializations. Are there any differences in terms of how applicants apply to a specialized versus general program?

The way our program runs is different than most MBA programs. Students apply directly to the specialization they are interested in and there is a set number of students we accept into those specializations each year.

What we’re really looking for – the key to all of this for our applicants – is passion. We want to see the passion the applicant has for their area of specialization. We also want to see that an applicant’s career goals are in line with their area of specialization. If you’re going back to get your MBA, there’s an expectation that you’re going to get a job when your done, and it better be a good one.

So, you’re looking for someone who knows where an MBA fits into their career path; not so much a career changer?

We have plenty of people that use our career specializations to launch a complete career shift. We have people who go from finance to brand management; from marketing to finance; or from consulting to operations. The Wisconsin specialization model is an excellent platform to do that, because the depth of study that you get will make up for your lack of experience in that area. The employers that hire Wisconsin’s MBAs know that. They know, for example, that while you have no direct background in supply chain management, the two years you studied supply chain here at Wisconsin has more than prepared you for what you want to do.

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