Online MBA Graduate

Nicole Nelsen Earns First Online MBA Degree

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Close your eyes and imagine being in an elementary school gymnasium watchingand listeningto five-year-olds play basketball. The random sounds of inconsistent dribbling, the distressed complaints from the young participants, the desperate pleas from parent/coaches to “shoot!” Now, imagine you’re doing this while listeningand internalizinga lecture on management strategy as part of your online MBA.

Nicole Nelsen

Welcome to Nicole Nelsen’s life these past two years. From basketball to swimming lessons to much more peaceful drives to work, she 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 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 schools before a move or pregnancy altered the plan. Situated permanently, for now, in the Twin Cities and with support from her company, she began her online studies in January 2019 and finished in two years.

Her coursework was a mix of asynchronous, or recorded, content combined with a few condensed, in-person courses (taken pre-pandemic) too. 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. “That was especially true in my statistics class with [Associate Professor] Anant [Mishra]. 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 benefitted me.”

A self-described “cult follower” of Professor and Carlson Foundation Endowed Chair in Marketing Vlad Griskevicius, Nelsen says she has used everything he taught in her job already. The Leadership and Personal Development course with Assistant Professor and Lawrence Fellow 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 have access to a broad network of people around the world. The next group of Online MBA graduates will say the same.”

"Our evolution in the online space over the past decade has allowed us to offer working professional students like Nicole the opportunity to engage their learning in the format and schedule they choose,” said Assistant Dean for MBA Programs Phil Miller. “We’re excited for Nicole and will continue finding ways to meet students where they are with our world-class faculty and services.”