2017 MBAs To Watch: Nichole Norby, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Nichole Norby

Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

“Passionate leader who is determined to make a positive change in our nation’s food system.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Detroit Lakes, MN

Fun fact about yourself: I rowed on my crew team in college.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of San Diego, BA/BS Electrical Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Back 40 Farm, Organic Farm Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? General Mills, Minneapolis, MN

Where will you be working after graduation? General Mills, Minneapolis, MN

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • VP of Academics
  • Graduate Assistant, Student Affairs
  • Teacher’s Assistant, Carlson Brand Enterprise
  • Health and Wellness Club, Co-Founder
  • Net Impact, Board Member

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Through Net Impact, I, with the help of our board, put on several events that connected students to social business…and more specifically connected them to farmers and food producers that grow and produce food using sustainable practices. Events ranged from panels, lectures, site visits and a Social Impact Trek to four companies in the Twin Cities.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was collecting chicken eggs with a little girl one afternoon, after we had the spent the day weeding a bed of lettuce – sounds idyllic, right? She was very inquisitive – like a lot of kids are that visit the farm.  She starts walking into the chicken coop placed in the middle of a grassy field and looks back at me and says, “Norby, “we don’t have to go to the grocery store to get eggs now, we get them RIGHT from the chickens.”

It made me smile in the biggest way. Since then, I had school groups and other visitors to the farm make similar connections of how their food is grown. It was those moments that made me realize I wanted to continue my career in the food and agriculture industry.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Helen Moser. She is a finance professor at Carlson and one of the most patient, kind, engaging, and invested professors I have ever had. She makes a seemingly ‘not fun’ class so fun, one where you don’t want to miss a class, both for her content, but also for the way she stimulates discussion on topics that are relevant and current.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Corporate Social Responsibility. There’s no magic answer, no rule you can apply to all situations that can tell you how to act. You must place your X somewhere, and that X can move depending on the situation and that is okay. Understanding that there isn’t always a full-proof solution to social issues and learning that for each company it may be different was incredibly valuable.

Why did you choose this business school?

  • Small class size
  • Being in the middle of a vibrant city
  • Being surrounded by countless Fortune 500 companies
  • The proximity of thousands of lakes
  • Best biking city

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? They tell you at orientation that you’re going to meet your network in business school and you’re going to meet a best friend. While I generally believed them, I also thought to myself, ‘I have great friends and I have a large professional network.’ But the relationships I have built, the support I have gotten from my classmates, professors, and faculty have been unimaginable.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The investment the faculty and professors take in each student is remarkable. I never imagined they would care as much as they do – and the students are the great beneficiary of that care. I would have not have been as successful as I was without their support.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Write down why you want to go to b-school. And what you want out of it. And talk to someone who has gone through the program to best understand if this is the place for you. It’s easy to stray off your path among similar, driven individuals who are also being pulled in many directions. It’s not easy to stay true to yourself or your goals – and that is incredibly important!

What is the biggest myth about your school? I went into business school with a similar mindset as I did my undergrad and it was incredibly different. The strong, immediate focus on our careers was much different than I experienced in engineering and initially caught me off guard!

What was your biggest regret in business school? I can safely say that I have no regrets.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Jamie Glover. She has consistently stayed true to herself, in an environment where it’s easy to lose sight of who you are and why you originally came to business school. She left corporate America in search of something different, in search of something that aligned with who she was and where she was looking to go. Since then, she has launched a business that supports young, Muslim women. She embodies a fierce and remarkable woman that we should all aspire to.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was walking through my vegetable field with a group of students who were so curious about the way food is grown, the work I was doing, and how I got there. I knew then that as much as I loved growing food, I loved engaging with people about the issues and discussing solutions. I realized I wanted to be part of the food system in a more macro way.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…farming organically.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would work to integrate social issues and challenges into the curriculum at a deeper level. Work with large corporations, small companies, and startups to better understand the challenges they are facing and learn how to tailor curriculum to provide solutions.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to make a lasting impact on the food system, I was fortunate enough to work at a place that taught me the importance of stewarding the land, of thinking beyond production yields and the necessity to take care to grow exceptional food while nurturing the soil. I want to ensure that future generations are afforded the same luxury – of pulling a carrot out of the ground in January and knowing the importance of the work done to grow that carrot.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My family. I am incredibly lucky that I am supported by my parents, sisters and extended family. They don’t always understand why I make the decisions I do, but they trust me and they continue to provide encouragement, strength and inspiration.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Nichole is fiercely passionate, tireless, and steadfast in her dependability.

Favorite book: Andre Agassi biography

Favorite movie or television show: Duke basketball games

Favorite musical performer: Zac Brown Band

Favorite vacation spot: anywhere with sunshine, beach, and mountains. Currently, Patagonia.


Biking, running, swimming, triathlons, hiking, waterskiing, traveling, trying new vegetarian restaurants

What made Nichole such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“One of the things that makes Nichole so unique and respected in the class is that she has followed her passion and made it work for her. She knew she wanted to work for a food company and she knew she had to respect the production and ingredients in that food. This ultimately led her to General Mills where she interned and accepted a full-time role as a Consumer Insights Manager.  Nichole has also been an instrumental team member of the Grow North Initiative, which is led by food leaders in the state to truly put MN on the map as a food epicenter.

Additionally Nichole is a member of the MBA Association and serves as VP of Academics where she regularly meets with faculty and students to ensure learning outcomes are appropriate and feasible. She is a Graduate Assistant for Student Affairs, has been a team lead on each of her experiential learning projects, is a Teacher’s Assistant for the Brands Enterprise in the Marketing Department, and is incredibly active in Carlson’s Net Impact Group. I am so proud of all of the work Nichole has done while in school. She has shown her classmates and incoming students that you can follow your passion while in business, you can make a difference while in school and you can be unwaveringly authentic.”

Maggie Tomas

Director, Graduate Business Career Center



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