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Making connections that count: Michelle Wieser named St. Kate's MBA director

Michelle Wieser, director of the Master of Business Administration program at St. Catherine University.
Michelle Wieser, director of the Master of Business Administration program at St. Catherine University.
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On June 16, Michelle Wieser joins St. Catherine University as the newly hired Master of Business Administration (MBA) program director. She brings a blend of real world and academic credentials.

“We were looking for someone not just to lead the program, but who would be instrumental in growing the program,” says Joann Bangs, dean of the School of Business and Professional Studies. “Michelle is a dynamic individual. I know that she will be a wonderful representative of the program.”

Her track record of building relationships with businesses and nonprofits and her enthusiasm about being the public face of St. Catherine’s MBA program are key assets. In her latest role as director of the Graduate Business Career Center at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, Wieser developed highly sought-after partnerships with national companies including PepsiCo, General Motors, Microsoft, McKinsey, Amazon and General Electric. These partnerships resulted in jobs for graduates and netted Carlson a number-one national ranking in Business Week for “Top MBA Placement.”

Her passion for St. Catherine’s program is matched by her commitment to the University mission — critical characteristics for an MBA program director.

“We educate students to perform in business, but we also want to educate them to instill the values of St. Catherine, which is to educate women and men to lead and influence and to be true to the social justice mission of the University,” says Deep Shikha, professor of economics, who headed up the search committee.

Making St. Catherine Home

Wieser feels like she’s coming full circle in joining St. Catherine. She graduated from a Catholic all-women’s high school, St. Joseph’s Academy in St. Louis, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet — the order that founded St. Catherine more than a century ago.

“The Catholic intellectual foundation and the mission-driven purpose is so important to an MBA program,” she says. “St. Kate’s doesn’t just talk about being socially responsible and doing business in a conscientious manner, it’s part of everything we do.”

Coming to Minnesota completed yet another circle for Wieser. Early in her career, she held a marketing internship at General Mills in St. Louis and was smitten by the field and the company when she visited its Minneapolis headquarters. (Her Minneapolis-based manager convinced her to earn her MBA.)

From Corporate to Academic Life

Wieser’s journey into academia began post-MBA after landing a job as a management consultant at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and later following a colleague to an executive recruitment company where she specialized in recruiting executives in brand management and marketing.

Executive recruiting opened up a new avenue for her career. “It’s there that I developed my interest in helping people discover what’s next for them,” she says. Her MBA alma mater, Washington University’s Olin Business School in St. Louis, approached her with an offer to help them develop deeper employer relationships for their students.

She worked her way up from employer relations manager to director of recruiting and employer relations across five academic programs including the MBA program. At the Carlson School, she built on that experience.

Goals for St. Catherine’s MBA Program

Wieser’s looking forward to growing the MBA program, which exceeded its enrollment goal for the first cohort and aims to fill two cohorts of about 20 students in the fall of 2014. “My focus and my perspective of knowing what it takes to achieve success in an MBA program will be helpful as we continue to grow and expand the program,” she says.

She believes one of her biggest challenges will be connecting working adults with experiential business opportunities. Many don’t have the flexibility to do summer internships, but she’s not backing down from the challenge.

“You enroll in an MBA program because you want to advance or you want to make a change. Making sure people are successful is really important to me,” she says.

June 16, 2014 by Elizabeth Child

See also: Business, Catholic Identity, Leadership