Karen Spitzfaden MPP-MBA

“Because Carlson students are so friendly and committed to creating a strong community, I knew my classmates would challenge and encourage me as I encountered subjects that were very new to me.”

My story

After working in a marketing and communications role at a DC-based nonprofit, I realized that I wanted to gain a more formal understanding of marketing and decided to pursue an MBA to develop a business skillset. Given my background in the nonprofit sector, I sought a business school that offered a dual MBA and Master of Public Policy program; I thought that the two degrees would tie together my past and future. And, since I’m a native Midwesterner who had been living on the coasts for nearly 10 years, I knew that I wanted to move back to the middle of the country.

Why Carlson?

I fell in love with Carlson as soon as I stepped foot on campus for Up Close. The people here are truly incredible; everyone made me feel welcome immediately. Since my background is in the public and nonprofit sectors, I wanted to find a school with a supportive environment for non-traditional MBA students. Because Carlson students are so friendly and committed to creating a strong community, I knew my classmates would challenge and encourage me as I encountered subjects that were very new to me. In addition, Carlson’s Enterprise program is ideal for students without traditional business experience; I was excited to know that I would have the opportunity to work on real client projects and gain hands-on experience before beginning my summer internship. Perhaps most important, though, is the individualized support from the Graduate Business Career Center (GBCC). Since each Carlson class is relatively small, the career coaches are always available and are skilled at tailoring their advice and services to each student’s specific career goals. With their help and encouragement, I was able to secure a summer internship that is better than I could have even imagined.

Carlson’s location also played a big role in my decision to enroll. Living in the Twin Cities is, of course, really fun. From a student perspective, though, the value of the Twin Cities comes from the number of large companies that are headquartered here. I knew I wanted to work in the Twin Cities in the long-term, so Carlson’s relationships with and proximity to so many incredible companies was a huge selling point for me. As a Carlson student, I am able to do an informational interview at the offices of a major company and be in class 30 minutes later.

And finally, since I am a dual degree student, it was imperative that I choose an MBA program that is open to collaborating with my other program. Carlson places a high value on dual degrees, and the relationships between Carlson and other graduate programs at the University of Minnesota are very strong.

A Day in the Life of a dual MBA/MPP Student: Friday, February 6th

Carlson students usually don’t have classes on Fridays, so we use the day for networking and meeting with groups to work projects and assignments.

8:30 - 9:00 a.m. Informational interview with a former colleague of one of my Carlson friends. Thank goodness this informational interview was over coffee. 8:30 is pretty early for a Friday (when I don’t have class)!
9:30 - 11:00 a.m. Group project work for Brand Management class. I’m on a team with three of my good friends, so the challenge for this meeting was to stay on task.
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Lead a study session for the MPP class I’m the TA for. I took a job as a Teaching Assistant for a class I really enjoyed during my first year of MPP classes. It’s really convenient that the MPP building is connected to Carlson; I can get there quickly without having to walk outside in the snow.
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Lunch at Red Sea with a friend from my MPP program. There are some fantastic restaurants in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, including this great Ethiopian place. It’s really easy to drop in for a quick lunch between meetings.
1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Common Grounds Steering Committee Meeting. Common Grounds is an interdisciplinary group of graduate students sponsored by the Center for Integrative Leadership. We do consulting work for local organizations.
2:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Group project work for Financial Decisions class. My team had to work on a case that involved calculating the WACC for a company and one of its divisions.
4:30 - 5:00 p.m. Informational interview with a Carlson alum. This info interview was by phone but still very helpful in clarifying my future direction.
5:00 - 7:00 p.m. Happy Hour with MPP students. The happy hour was on the West Bank, so it was easy to stop by before heading home after a very busy week.


About Karen

Moline, IL
Undergraduate Institution
Rice University, 2008 Majors: History and Women’s Studies
Research and strategy for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency
Strategy and marketing for DC-based nonprofit organizations
Carlson Activities
Fisher Invitational Case Competition Team
Baylor Business Ethics Case Competition Team
Women’s Mentorship Program
MBA Women International Board
Common Grounds Steering Committee
Consumer Insights at General Mills
General Mills
Job Title
Global Consumer Insights Associate Manager