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Executive MBA Student Spotlights

Impact the Future of Health Care

Elsa Jacobson standing in a doorway

Elsa Jacobson

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin School of Business
MBA Graduation Year: 2020
Current Job: Senior Director, UW Health

As part of our clinic operations team, I’m responsible for patient scheduling and digital health. Both are areas of strategic focus for our health system, so I’ve had the pleasure to chart a course for the organization in these areas, designing teams, processes, and technology. I’ve had great support from our senior leadership team and have taken those plans from concept to reality.

I currently oversee a team of about 300 people. By 2023 our team will comprise all patient schedulers for the whole UW Health system—about 700 people.

Many higher-level health care roles require an MBA. My executive sponsor encouraged me to invest in furthering my education. As I continue to take on larger roles, my educational background won’t be a barrier keeping me from growth opportunities I was otherwise ready to take on.

I’m leading a team through systemic change at UW Health. While people may not initially see the wisdom in tackling large personal growth (the executive MBA) at the same time they’re taking on a huge professional lift, I hoped I could apply my new knowledge to the transformational projects I was leading at UW Health.

I’ve appreciated the academic approach taught in Organizational Behavior, and the practical take-it-to-work-tomorrow techniques we studied in Leadership. I’ve implemented a number of changes with my leadership team as a direct result of our first-year coursework, and I’ve also become more mindful of areas where I may not have been as effective as I thought I was.

If I had things to do over again, I might want a career in accounting or finance! Entering with dread and emerging with passion for all of our “mathy” subjects is a testament to the uniformly high quality of the WSB faculty in these areas.

Elsa Jacobson (MBA ’20)

Because the MBA team environment doesn’t have hierarchy the way a workplace does, it manufactures an environment that forces better compromise and collaboration. The flexibility it takes to succeed in a business school team is a valuable skill that I’m working hard to apply at work too. Through our coursework, I’ve thought a lot about how I show up at work and how I lead.

The quality of the instruction in accounting and economics was so high that I wish I’d been exposed to those subjects earlier! Before this program, I’d never had exposure to economics or accounting. I dreaded them. If I had things to do over again, I might want a career in accounting or finance! Entering with dread and emerging with passion for all of our “mathy” subjects is a testament to the uniformly high quality of the WSB faculty in these areas.

Jean Sink, my career coach, has helped me reflect on what I’m learning in class and apply it in my own leadership role. With a talented coach not affiliated with my own organization, I can share freely with Jean and can use her outside vantage point to make better decisions in my work and career.

Elsa Jacobson shows a coworker something on her tablet computer

The program office has been a great support to me, starting from before I was even a student. During the admissions process, Dale Pangborn (assistant director of recruiting and admissions) helped me prepare a case for organizational support to participate in the executive program, with its significant time away from the office. Since I became a student, Jean’s coaching and support have made a big difference in helping me decide where to focus my energy for the biggest impact. She’s a thoughtful person who I’ve come to count on for a healthy mix of support and appreciative inquiry.

THE PROGRAM IS SO GREAT! It’s helped me mature and grow as a leader (probably even more than I’ve consciously realized). I’ve loved all of my professors, and I keep in touch with many of them. I was surprised how accessible the professors were. They have each been willing to take time out of class if I asked, and they’ve been genuinely engaged in each of our success as students. This program has pushed me. It’s frustrated me. It’s challenged me. But I’ve grown because of these challenges, and I’ve had support from the program and my peers to make sure that each challenge turned into something I could learn from.

I’m a firm believer in the Wisconsin Ideathat education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom, impacting the state and the world. As a student at UW–Madison, and as an employee of a health care provider affiliated with the UW, it’s important to me to use my position to solve problems that will improve the health and quality of life for Wisconsinites. With the skills and experiences this program is giving me, I will be able to have a broader impact on my teams, and through them, on the community.