University News

A student-athlete pipeline

February 14, 2024

Written by Chris Lindeke | Photos submitted

Students in the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater College of Business and Economics are often involved in other campus clubs, organizations, and teams.

Some students are athletes who compete in one or more of the Warhawks’ 22 NCAA sport programs.

These student-athletes, who do not receive athletic scholarships, compete for love of the game. They dedicate themselves to a relentless pursuit of excellence in competition, in the classroom and in the community, representing UW-Whitewater locally, regionally, and nationally.

Warhawk Athletics boasts 20 team national championships and 68 individual national titles. Many student-athletes pair their athletic experience with being a student in Wisconsin’s largest business school. Today, more than 42 percent of student-athletes are studying business.

Many of these alums have gone on to thrive in the real world after graduating.


Gymnastics alum Vrubley vaults to leadership role

It was an easy decision for Ginny (Ebker) Vrubley to attend UW-Whitewater, though the process to get there was more difficult.

Ginny Vrubley.

With limited opportunities around the nation to compete in college gymnastics in 2012, Vrubley traveled from Fenton, Missouri, to the Midwest to visit some of the schools that offered gymnastics at the non-Division I level. She discovered the Warhawk gymnastics program and enjoyed her experience with the facilities, the coaching staff and the team. Vrubley knew she wanted to study business, so the prestige of the business school was the cherry on top.

Vrubley joined a Learning Community her freshman year to help with her transition to campus. She liked the general business program as she was unsure of what she wanted to do after graduation.

“I was kind of all over the place as I think a lot of college students are,” Vrubley said. “The fact that UW-Whitewater offers a general business degree is awesome. I took marketing, management and human resources courses … it was an opportunity to get a little bit of everything without knowing what one specific area I wanted to focus on.”

Vrubley first discovered her current employer, Schneider — a shipping, transportation and logistics company — during a class presentation by the company, and then connected with employees at a career fair on campus. She was offered an interview for a position and was able to secure a job with the company before graduation.

“I never pictured myself to be at a trucking or transportation company,” Vrubley said. “I randomly drove up to Green Bay for the interview and was super impressed with the facilities, the building, the office and everyone I met with. I moved myself up to Green Bay, I knew no one here, and I’ve been here ever since.

“Who knows where I would be without those opportunities that UW-Whitewater gave me?”

Vrubley started in a sales position before transitioning to customer relations. She currently oversees a team of seven as a customer experience manager.

She credits her experience with the Warhawk gymnastics team, where she was a part of two national championship teams and was a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Scholastic Honor Roll member, and all the experiences available at UW-Whitewater for her success as a professional.

“From the start, UW-Whitewater was so welcoming, and it just feels like home,” Vrubley said. “There’s over 10,000 students on campus, but you still get a homey, small feel.”


Men’s basketball trio makes global impact

Taylor Groth.

Taylor Groth, Anthony Mlachnik and Phil Negri were all students in the College of Business and Economics and players on the UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team.

Groth, Mlachnik and Negri were each part of conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances for the Warhawks and members of the WIAC Scholastic Honor Roll for their academic excellence.

All three parlayed their success at UW-Whitewater into strong business careers.

Groth, from Burlington, originally attended Mississippi State University with aspirations to be a golf professional. He was connected to UW-Whitewater by his high school coach, TJ Otzelberger, a former Warhawk who is currently the head men’s basketball coach at Iowa State University.

“I always felt very comfortable on campus,” Groth said. “You get sucked into the traditions, into athletics and into academics, and you’re surrounded by good people who are smart and want to be successful.”

With a creative interest in marketing and advertising, Groth chose marketing as his major. After competing for the Warhawks for four years, he earned his BBA in 2008 and joined Mittal Steel, currently known as ArcelorMittal, where he’s worked his way up to the position of sales director, overseeing sales in North America from his office in Nashville, Tennessee.

“When you get to UW-Whitewater, you realize the excellence on the walls, and that carries over into the classroom,” Groth said. “Athletics and academics at UW-Whitewater really prepare you and set you up for success. I’ve always had a lot of demands on my time whether it’s from your coaches or professors. That’s how the real world works.”

Anthony Mlachnik.

Mlachnik also joined the Warhawks as a Division I transfer after experiencing injuries at his previous university. The Milwaukee native landed at UW-Whitewater after keeping in touch with the coaching staff and prioritizing academics, a winning culture and facilities.

After earning his BBA in finance and management in 2007, Mlachnik faced a decision — continue his career in basketball playing professionally or coaching or continue his journey in business. He chose to pursue an MBA at UW-Whitewater with aspirations of working in finance and wealth management.

“The turning point was the mentors that I had at the university — they helped coach me through the importance of continuing my education,” Mlachnik said. “They went above and beyond. I didn’t feel like I got lost in the crowd and I had people who cared about me in my future and success in that time period.”

Mlachnik currently works as a wealth management advisor for NorthRock Partners in Milwaukee. He also started a non-profit basketball organization, 24:Up, working with Pat Connaughton of the Milwaukee Bucks to use basketball as a platform to help kids from the Milwaukee area.

“We wanted to have an impact in basketball at the grassroots level in Wisconsin,” Mlachnik said. “The most gratifying thing is seeing kids who go through the program wanting to give back to their communities. That was always the intent — to do good in our communities.”

Phil Negri.

Negri, who attended UW-Whitewater from 2007-11 and was a teammate of Groth for one season, came to UW-Whitewater from Minocqua. His high school teammate, Dustin Mitchell, was a Warhawk, so Negri had familiarity with the university and the conference.

A child of small business owners, Negri had a natural interest in business. He started as an accounting major before shifting over to finance and engaged in entrepreneurship and business model competitions and developed close relationships with faculty and staff. He graduated in three years and took some master’s degree courses during his fourth and final year on campus.

“The business school has everything you need — academics, career development, professional development, career opportunities,” Negri said. “Like a lot of experiences, it’s what you make of it. You get what you put into it. All the resources are there for you.”

Negri attended the University of Notre Dame to earn his MBA. He worked in a pair of CFO positions before landing a job as COO at AMCOR, a chemical manufacturing company based in Chicago where he now serves as president. Negri’s wife, Amanda, is also a UW-Whitewater graduate.