2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Christopher Zaczyk, University of Wisconsin

Christopher Zaczyk

The Wisconsin School of Business

“Thoughtful leader, dedicated team player, hard worker, loving husband, and proud father.”

Hometown: Tinley Park, IL

Fun fact about yourself: I am fascinated by watches and the stories behind them. For my 30th birthday, my wife gave me the same model of watch worn on all six lunar landings. I love it and wear it every day.

Undergraduate School and Degree: St. Norbert College, BA in Economics, 2010

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Prior to attending business school, I served as an armor officer in the US Army. My last job was as a company commander in the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, KY. Over the span of two years, I commanded a heavy weapons company and a headquarters company.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? I interned as the Operations Manager for The University of Wisconsin Missing in Action Recovery and Identification Project. The MIA Project is an all-volunteer organization that researches, locates, and recovers the remains of US Service personnel classified as Missing in Action from World War II to present. I began volunteering with the team in the fall of 2018 and continue to work with them now. This summer, I was honored and humbled to participate in the team’s mission to recover a missing aircraft crewman in Belgium.

Where will you be working after graduation? After graduation, I will continue service in the US Army in larger operational management roles.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 2019 Graduate Business Association President, MBA Veteran’s Club Co-President, and volunteer for the UW MIA Project

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  My wife and I welcomed our first child, a baby boy named Evan, in August of 2019. Learning to balance fatherhood with my responsibilities as a student and GBA President is something I’m very proud of. Beyond becoming a dad, I am extremely proud of everything the GBA team accomplished during my term on the board. It was an honor to work with such incredible people.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Serving as a company commander was an incredible experience. The work was challenging and immensely rewarding. I was part of one of the most incredible teams of leaders I have ever been privileged to serve with and having the opportunity to have a positive impact on soldiers is something I am extremely thankful for.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Greg DeCroix is my favorite MBA professor. I took Greg’s Operations Management and Supply Chain Analytics courses and learned a great deal. He introduced our classes to several creative ways to look at and solve problems. I was able to directly apply what he taught me during my summer internship; often, I was bouncing ideas off him for how I might approach things I was working on. I also co-hosted the program’s annual Arts Showcase with Greg and had a blast trading jokes with him in front of the class.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I love the annual Arts Showcase. Student art is displayed in the foyer of the business school and a small talent show is held. In the classroom, it’s easy to get a sense of how gifted my peers are. The Arts Showcase opened my eyes to an entirely different side of their talents and skills.

Why did you choose this business school? Wisconsin uses the phrase “The Wisconsin Family” to describe itself. The more I learned about the school and met the students, the more I realized that this wasn’t simply a phrase – the Wisconsin Family is a mentality that permeates through every aspect of the program. I chose Wisconsin because I wanted to be part of a community of high achievers that treated each other like family.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Take the time to visit the school and the city of Madison in person and get to know current students. Explore a few of the specialization options and really think about what things bring you professional satisfaction and enjoyment – knowing where your passion lies will really help you shine in your application and get the most from your experience.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth might be that the specialization model Wisconsin uses might limit the scope of generalized management learning in the MBA program. This simply isn’t the case. I’ve enjoyed a wide breadth of meaningful learning across a wide array of subjects while still benefitting from deep and challenging dives into courses where I anticipate focusing in my career. It’s really the best of both worlds.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I can’t imagine doing anything differently, but I do wish I had more time to get to know each of my classmates better.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my classmate and friend, Keaton Nankivil. Keaton is thoughtful, intellectually curious, humble, and goes out of his way to give back to the community. I have enjoyed talking to him about everything from leadership and team dynamics to books and current events. Keaton launched an annual food drive that generated over 1,000 pounds of food donated to a local pantry this Thanksgiving and is deeply interested in the entrepreneurial community in Madison. He is a great guy and an awesome friend.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My wife, Andrea, earned her MBA from the University of Tennessee in 2017. Seeing her grow professionally and challenge herself inspired me to pursue my MBA when the opportunity presented itself. She encouraged me every step of the way through the application process, and I wouldn’t be where I am without her love and support.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Never stop learning
  • Find opportunities to give back whenever possible

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? An optimistic leader with a great sense of humor who genuinely cared about those around him.

Hobbies? I am an avid woodworker and car and watch enthusiast

What made Chris Zaczyk such an invaluable addition to the class of 2020?

“Chris Zaczyk has been an outstanding member of the Wisconsin FT MBA, Class of 2020. From the time he arrived on campus, as part of our New Admit student weekend, Chris demonstrated an innate curiosity and enthusiasm to embrace his MBA studies and contributions to the MBA program.

Chris has been a student in the Erdman Center for Operations and Technology Management, where he has maintained a 3.9 cumulative GPA while also being extremely involved in leadership development opportunities. He served as the president of the graduate business association. The Graduate Business Association (GBA) serves as the umbrella organization for graduate students at the Wisconsin School of Business led by an elected board, representing the student body as a liaison to the Office of the Dean, faculty, staff, alumni, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The purpose of the GBA is to enhance the graduate business student Experience and to promote inclusion through academic, athletic, social, extra-curricular, and service-oriented events.

Chris was co-president of the MBA Veterans club and was instrumental in organizing events such as “Veterans night at the Veterans Museum in Madison. He also volunteered at many veterans events on campus during his two years. He also provided support to the MBA program office for their ambassador program by connecting with prospective MBA students during the application process.

Chris volunteered as an MC host for the multicultural night and art showcase MBA events. His wit and humor made these events a success. His comfort on the stage for public speaking is definitely one of his key strengths. This is demonstrated through his participation in many case competitions. His teams placed second in the big ten case competition (spring 2019) and second in the graduate marketing case competition (January 2019). In both of these case competitions, he received an award as the best speaker.

Chris was also involved as a volunteer in the UW MIA RIP project since 2018. The University of Wisconsin Missing in Action Recovery and Identification Project (UW MIA RIP) honors the sacrifice of brave Americans who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Their primary mission is to recover missing U.S. military personnel from past global conflicts.

The UW MIA RIP works to recover, identify, and repatriate MIA U.S. service members by conducting annual field excavations and year-round research assistance to families of missing service members. Chris was instrumental in developing a database for categorizing missing MIA’s from the state of Wisconsin. Chris participated in a recovery mission during the summer of 2019 in Belgium. He has also represented the group during various public relations events at the Wisconsin State capitol.
Chris was nominated by many of his classmates for Poets and Quants. Some of the comments from his classmates included:

  • “He is determined to be inclusive while also maintaining complete focus on his values of how our community should be built. In the classroom, he has a unique ability to ask questions that address the core issues of whatever topic we are discussing. His thoughts always push the class forward in a positive direction. Chris has been a crucial part of our MBA experience, sometimes in an obvious and visible way, but more often in the role of facilitator that many of us do not recognize day-to-day.”
  • “He supported every person he has been surrounded with and never asked for anything in return. Chris is a model for leadership, and I think all of us are lucky that we get to graduate with him.”
  • “Chris Zaczyk obviously has an incredible story coming from the Army. You know better than I that he shows extreme leadership and is able to collect and steer groups of people in impressive ways while also being able to intelligently listen to and balance their individual concerns.”
  • “Chris has gone above-and-beyond in every sense of the word. He was an outstanding GBA president, tirelessly supports his peers, and is an excellent contributor providing thought-provoking insight in the classroom.”
  • “Chris is a natural leader. He does everything with full effort and with a team mentality. He is one of the most charismatic speakers and genuinely cares about everyone around him. Chris is not afraid to speak up and share his opinion, but he’s also always listening and learning from others.”

His willingness to go above and beyond outside of the classroom is what defines Chris and why his classmates respect and appreciate his contributions.”

Steven Boeder
Director, Erdman Center
Wisconsin School of Business


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