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Growth Continues After MBA

By Linda Barrett

March 15, 2023

Nate Coppernoll

As one would expect, transformations can change us completely and may occur in many ways: educational, personal, occupational, spiritual, physical, and more. Sometimes the transformations are internalized and other times they are immediately noticeable, such as hair growth (more about that later).

Changes happened quickly for Nate Coppernoll (MBA ’19) when he left the military after a four-year stint. With a recession looming, he decided to immediately pursue his bachelor’s degree and soon after, began working in corporate health for a small company. He realized through his work how fundamental and important insurance is to the success of a business.

During that time came another change: a growing family, along with the feeling that he needed to become more comfortable in meeting their needs. Nate knew that his next step was an MBA. He explored programs throughout the country and noticed Wisconsin’s consistently high rating for the Risk and Insurance department. He was concerned about his average undergraduate GPA; also, his test scores were not stellar because he had never taken a standardized test. He was unsure if his application would be competitive yet pursued the opportunity despite his hesitation.

He reflected, “I interviewed with (RMI Academic Director) Joan Schmit. It was more of a conversation. She was present and focused on me and my interests. I was so impressed with the leadership of the specialization and how much emphasis was placed on who I was as an individual.” Nate thinks that the way he articulated his motivation, goals, and perseverance set his application apart from others. Before long, he was admitted and his family moved to Madison. His advice to other applicants who question their readiness: “The admission process is holistic and is not focused only on grades or test scores, because if it were, I believe I would not have been admitted.” He credits the RMI MBA and Wisconsin School of Business with recognizing his motivation and potential.

Nate said his life has further transformed since the day he received his acceptance letter. “So many things have changed and I’d have a hard time identifying one that isn’t positive.” His willingness to accept the risk and uncertainty of both pausing his career and moving in a completely new direction continue to pay off, and he expects that it will persist well into the future.

Some of the changes have had little to do with the academic education he received. Nate enjoyed learning from people across the world—applying their lessons to his own life, while further defining who he was and who he wanted to be. He shared, “An MBA transforms what we look to achieve and how we expect to achieve it. There is so much more value to education than salary expectations or career outcomes. The value proposition is much broader than I realized at the start. I couldn’t be more thankful to have had the opportunity to earn my MBA at the Wisconsin School of Business.”

One such value proposition is the way to approach problems. Nate’s first post-MBA position in the Career Development Program at USAA involved working on a high-stress, high-visibility issue with federal regulators. He drew upon his business school experience: What exactly is the problem? What tools do I have to help solve this? How can I break it down into pieces and solve parts of it to immediately add value? He received promotions and the respect of his peers because of his ability to quickly adapt to situations. He recently transitioned to a Product Manager role at Discover Financial Services and is now leading the rollout of new digital payments technology—a unique opportunity made possible by his supportive family, colleagues, mentors, and the RMI MBA.

Even Nate’s appearance has transformed. He recognized that his path may not have aligned with who he truly is. Short hair and a clean-shaven face were required by the military, and he maintained that appearance well after his exit from the service. During the pandemic, however, he began to grow his hair, both head and facial, and decided that his newer look is a reflection of all the changes that have taken place over the past five years. Nate laughs, “Importantly, my wife and children approve!”