Share This Page
Ally Duffey

Two Years in the Life of a Bolzie MBA

by Ally Duffey Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A little over two years ago when I decided to leave New York City for Madison, I had never spent any time in the Midwest and all I knew of Wisconsin was that it’s “America’s dairy land.” I do enjoy cheese, so that seemed like a decent place to be. But 21 months sounded like a long time, and I had no idea what exactly was in store. Now, on the other side of those short 21 months, I can say that, while there was most certainly cheese, there has been so much more. Throughout my time here I’ve made great friends, built a strong network, and grown more personally and professionally than I ever expected.

There are a few crucial factors that contributed to my experience. As a type-A introvert, I was most dreading the team-based nature of so much of our MBA coursework, but I found this to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the program. Not only was I able to learn from my classmates’ diverse experiences across different functional areas, I was able to reflect on the meta-work of a manager in building and sustaining an effective team. Working with a number of different teams across the program - to varying levels of success - I was able to learn invaluable and incredibly practical lessons about the importance of goal setting, accountability, and communication among teams.

Through the Bolz Center, we were given numerous opportunities to apply the skills we were learning through our project placements and consulting work with local arts organizations. In my time in Madison, I held part-time positions focusing on development with the Madison Ballet and the Overture Center for the Arts, where I was able to build upon my past experience in fundraising. By continuing to work throughout the year, I was able to take a more analytical approach to my own work, directly apply what I was learning, and provide additional value for the organizations.

One of the highlights of the Bolz Center was certainly our final consulting projects. We worked with two clients on two very different projects throughout this past academic year: with the Chazen Museum of Art we examined the current status of undergraduate student attendance and engagement and identified opportunities for future growth; and with the Village of Waunakee we explored how to build upon their creative economy initiative and provided a road map to sustainably support that work. Each of these projects were both challenging and extremely rewarding - a fitting end to our MBA careers.

Finally, this consulting work and my MBA experience as a whole would not have been the same were it not for my stellar Bolz classmates: Jaron Bernstein, Sarah Bluvas, Abby Lembersky, and Chris Stuessy. They are all incredibly passionate about the arts and thoughtful about their work, conscientious and driven. It has been a great pleasure to learn with and from them over the last two years. 

Because of these experiences in the Wisconsin MBA and the Bolz Center, I feel empowered to lead, and inspired to continue learning. I look forward to doing so when I officially begin work as Digital Marketing Analyst at the arts-focused digital marketing consulting firm Capacity Interactive in just a few weeks.