Close your eyes and imagine being in an elementary school gymnasium watching—and listening—to five-year-olds play basketball. The random sounds of inconsistent dribbling, the distressed complaints from the young participants, the desperate pleas from parents/coaches to “Shoot!” Now, imagine you’re doing this while listening—and internalizing—a lecture on management strategy as part of your online Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Welcome to Nicole Nelsen’s life these past two years. From basketball to swimming lessons to work, she has tackled her coursework “literally anywhere and anytime” she wanted.
“That flexibility was critical for me,” says Nelsen, who is the first-ever online MBA graduate of the Carlson School of Management. “Being able to pick when I was ready to learn allowed me to continue meeting expectations at work and at home.”
A wife and a mother of two young boys, Nelsen is a convenience sales zone manager for General Mills. She’s been at the company for 15 years, moving around the U.S. for different positions. During that time, she started an MBA at four different schools before a move or pregnancy altered her plans. Now situated in the Twin Cities and with support from her company, she began her online studies in January 2019 and finished in two years.
“There is a perception that in an online degree program you completely miss out on forming relationships with peers. That couldn’t be further from the truth." -Nicole Nelsen
Her coursework was a mix of recorded content combined with a few condensed, in-person courses (taken pre-pandemic). Nelsen believes having access to the recorded videos was important for her learning.
“There were many times where I would watch part of a lecture three or four times, to make sure I understood the concept,” says Nelsen, who also has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the Carlson School. Or I would watch a recorded office hour’s session where my classmates engaged with the professor. The ability to do that, on my schedule, really benefited me.”
A self-described “cult follower” of Professor Vlad Griskevicius, Nelsen says she has used everything he taught in her job already. Meanwhile, she says the Leadership and Personal Development course with Assistant Professor Elizabeth Campbell has helped her be a better manager and to foster leaders on her team.
Those faculty relationships, combined with her engagement with classmates, made the experience not only educational, but meaningful.
“There is a perception that in an online degree program you completely miss out on forming relationships with peers,” says Nelsen. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. I made some lifelong friends during my program and now have access to a broad network of people around the world.”
- Business and Management