Written by Dana Krems
Levi and Kelley Wolff truly embrace the Warhawk spirit. They are successful, ambitious and open to new challenges. And during a two-year period in which they lived and worked in Sydney, Australia, they earned their Master of Business Administration degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. It’s another chapter, and another milestone for the couple that centers on their professional drive, their passion for adventure, and a campus they love.
Kelley (Agnew) and Levi met as undergraduate students at UW-Whitewater. Levi majored in general business and Spanish, while Kelley studied international business and Spanish. Their experiences studying abroad sparked the desire for more travel and exploration.
“Spending a semester in another country really opened my mind,” Kelley said. “If I hadn’t studied abroad, I wouldn’t have done anything that I’ve done since then. Everything would be very different.”
“My study abroad experience in Costa Rica inspired me to travel and try other things,” Levi shared. “Since that time, I have lived in Spain for one year and in Australia for two years, and I’ve been to 30 other countries.”
A UW-Whitewater classmate eventually helped recruit him to work at SoftwareOne, a technology and software consulting company that has offices in nearly 90 countries. Levi, married to Kelley by this time, built international experience into his career goals at SoftwareOne. A position as an inside sales executive in Sydney, Australia, turned out to be the right opportunity.
“Being so far from family and friends was hard, but we had a great experience,” he said. “We were living in a much larger and more diverse city than we were used to. The weather was great, and we were 30 minutes from the beach. I think that impacts the culture. Everyone is supportive of getting away and enjoying the outdoors.”
Before long, they began to think about graduate school. Kelley knew that she wanted to earn her Master of Business Administration through UW-Whitewater’s online program.
“I didn’t even consider other programs,” she said. “I love UW-Whitewater.”
Working in sales, Levi thought he might expand his network by going to another university. He started his MBA at a well-known east coast institution before he transferred to UW-Whitewater.
“The program I chose was rated the top online MBA program in the country at the time,” he said. “Kelley and I compared notes, however, and I realized that there was little difference in the quality of the professors, classes and other students. UW-Whitewater’s program was the same quality at half the cost.”
Kelley, who completed an emphasis in international business, felt the curriculum resonated with her real-life experiences.
“In Professor (Carol) Scovotti’ s international marketing course, we did a research project with a university in Germany. I worked with people of six nationalities in four time zones. This applied to my work in Sydney, where I had people of 14 nationalities on my day-to-day team and the ability to collaborate across cultures was critical.”
“However, I was working in project management in Sydney, and Professor (Andrew) Ciganek’ s project management class is where I saw the most direct correlation from a class to work,” she added. “It was incredible.”
Levi also found the curriculum to be highly relevant.
“The undergraduate program gives you a foundation, but the graduate coursework goes much deeper,” he said. “It helped that I could compare what I was learning to my experiences in a global company."
Despite working full time, they completed the program in 18 months.
Reflecting on the impact of her MBA experience, Kelley shared, “I’m much more confident working with markets, data analysis and financial statements, which is valued in my position at Baird (a multinational financial services firm). I also developed my critical thinking skills, and at the end of the day, that is more important than memorizing formulas.”
Levi also anticipates leveraging his degree.
“We just graduated in spring and moved back to Wisconsin at the end of summer, so it’s all very fresh. I am growing in my role at SoftwareOne. When I’m ready for a promotion or new opportunity, I definitely think having an MBA will contribute to my success."
Though he anticipates they will focus on other life goals for a while, Levi would consider additional education.
“The MBA was challenging, but I thrived in the program,” he said. “I’m keeping the door open for doing something else that involves education.”
As Kelley shared when reflecting on the impact of her experiences abroad and at UW-Whitewater, “You always have to be open to opportunities.”