For Incoming Students, Connection Comes First

Residential community gives new Business Badgers an immediate sense of belonging

Roommates Jaqueline Sanchez and Hannah Brennan look at a laptop in their dorm room
Roommates Jaqueline Sanchez (BBA ’23), right, and Hannah Brennan (BBA ’23) value the community and shared experiences that Business Connect offers.

The transition from high school to college can be as daunting as it is exciting. Students face many uncertainties for the first time: moving to a new city, making friends, and navigating academic rigor at a university level. For some freshmen directly admitted to the Wisconsin School of Business, living in the Business Connect housing community helps the adjustment to college life feel a little less daunting.

Located on the second floor of Ogg Hall, Business Connect provides students opportunities for early involvement with WSB. It connects students with alumni mentors, upperclassmen, and even recruiting employers.

“First-year business students don’t have a ton of access to the Wisconsin School of Business yet,” says Julie Duffstein, director of student life. “Most of the classes they’re taking are fulfilling general education requirements outside WSB. Business Connect provides more access to the resources that they wouldn’t otherwise get within their first year.”

This year, the themed housing floor is offering an expanded schedule of business-specific events and resources to its 120 students.

A one-credit Personal and Professional Foundations in Business course—a requirement for all students directly admitted to WSB—is offering two of its discussion sections in Ogg Hall, making the course closer and more accessible to Business Connect residents. Other new Business Connect initiatives include a dinner with students and recruiting employers each semester, drop-in advising sessions with academic and peer advisors, and information sessions featuring WSB faculty and leaders. Students are incentivized to take part in Business Connect programming through “house competitions,” in which the three wings of the floor compete against each other to earn the most points for participation.

Julie Duffstein
The hope is that if members of this community are all also in class together, that fosters an even greater sense of community within the classroom, which can enrich discussion and go deeper in content.

Julie Duffstein
Director of Student Life

A new initiative called the Undergraduate Business Council (UBC) Mentorship Program connects students with upperclassmen and alumni mentors together in a cohort.

In collaboration with UBC, each student is matched with an upperclassman BBA student mentor. Mentor “families” consist of two upperclassmen and six first-year students, who are then connected to one alumni mentor. The mentorship program gives students the chance to engage with their mentors individually or in a cluster, with a “Mentor Monday” event in Ogg Hall each month.

“Whether navigating career decisions, learning how to interact with professionals, or simply hearing about someone else’s path to success in the Wisconsin School of Business, the mentor-mentee relationship is key to building a strong foundation for success,” says Nicholas Bruhn (BBA ’14, MAcc ’15), an alumni mentor and senior audit associate at KPMG.

“As someone who benefited immensely from mentor relationships as a student, I want to ensure that future Business Badgers have the resources and tools they need to succeed,” he says. “Being a mentor to new students is one way I can contribute to that mission.”

While Business Connect’s resources help create access to WSB for first-year students, a great deal of its impact lies in the community building it enables.

A group of students listens to instructor Laurel Bastain
Residents benefit from informational sessions with WSB instructors like Laurel Bastian, who offered advice on effective ways to communicate with faculty.

“The biggest resource was having someone to study with who lived right next door to me,” says Abbey Bressers (BBA '22), who lived in the Business Connect community last year. “If I was in my room studying and I had a question on homework, I could go right down the hall to the study room and someone was bound to be doing the same thing I was doing because we all had to take the same classes.”

The sense of community and belonging that housing communities like Business Connect offer has a large impact on students’ academic success.

“It’s everything,” says Duffstein. “Feeling a sense of belonging and community is one of the top indicators of persistence in college—it helps make students feel comfortable to seek out resources.

“In the college environment, there’s so much learning that happens outside the actual classroom,” she says. “The hope is that if members of this community are all also in class together, that fosters an even greater sense of community within the classroom, which can enrich discussion and go deeper in content.”

Bressers says being part of a community of people going through the same experiences was incredibly valuable.

“I remember walking in on my first day of classes and seeing at least three people I had met the previous days who lived on my floor,” says Bressers. “I knew I would meet people with similar interests and similar goals if I joined Business Connect. I wanted to be part of a family. I was nervous to come to college, but this community was very welcoming.”

Catch up on fellow Wisconsin School of Business alumni. View Now »

Want to add your own class note? Submit Note »

Rollie Heath (BBA ’59)

and his wife, Josie, were honored on October 9 by Great Education Colorado for their impact on the community. The breadth of their contributions can be seen in the organizations they have founded and supported, including the Community Foundation of Boulder County, the Public Education Business Coalition, the Women’s Foundation, the Colorado Community College System, and the World Trade Center. Formerly, Heath was a member of the Wisconsin School of Business' Dean’s Advisory Board and served as a Colorado state senator from 2015-2017. More Class Notes »

Nick Millot (BBA ’12)

was named one of Chicago Crain’s "20 in Their 20s." Now vice president of development at Related Midwest, Millot oversees some of the biggest projects in Chicago real estate, including One Bennett Park, a new 70-story luxury residential tower in Streeterville, and 400 Lake Shore Drive, a $1 billion mixed-use proposal that features residential units, the expansion of the Chicago Riverwalk, and the development of a public park. Prior to joining Related Midwest in 2013, Millot worked in the Real Estate Banking Group for Wells Fargo.More Class Notes »

Pamela Hart (BBA ’90, JD ’02)

became executive director of the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School in June 2019. She was the first person to develop and teach an animal law course at the University of Chicago Law School, as well as at UW–Madison. She is also a co-founder of Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims, a Dane County nonprofit dedicated to recognizing the role of animals in family violence. Hart lives in Middleton, Wisconsin. More Class Notes »