Photos By Paul L. Newby II
You’re about to meet an exciting group of Business Badgers. Meet eight Wisconsin School of Business graduates with high-profile careers making an impact in their industries.
Founding president, Dohmen Company Foundation
Deanna Singh (MBA ’12) calls herself a “chronic founder.”
Since she was 16, Singh has been harnessing the resources around her to help others in her community. By the time she was a senior at Fordham University in New York, Singh had founded several different organizations dedicated to helping and creating a network for people in continual poverty.
“There is a true power in being able to rethink our resources and put business practices behind them,” she says. “I’m always asking myself, ‘Is there a way to use the things that are at my fingertips and really elevate them for the people in our communities?’”
Over time, Singh developed her own toolkit of resources to use to start up new organizations. But what she didn’t have was perspective.
“I needed to step back and look at other practices and weigh my own practices against them,” she says. “Being at the Wisconsin School of Business allowed me the opportunity to do that—to really think about the tools that I had and to be able to assess them, improve them, or get the affirmation that they were the right ones.”
In September 2016, Singh published a book titled I Am a Boy of Color. It was inspired by her two sons; realizing that her multiracial sons had little to no representation in the books they read, Singh wanted to make sure they had the resources to learn about their identities. Singh uses the book’s proceeds to help support other organizations that foster positive images and opportunities for children of color.
Today, Singh serves as president of the Dohmen Company Foundation in Milwaukee, which supports and invests in self-sustaining organizations dedicated to ensuring people have access to a healthy life. The foundation focuses on health equity and how the definition of “health” must be broadened to consider social, intellectual, economic, and physical health.
“The exciting thing about the foundation is the opportunity to connect these core values with a focus on innovation and figure out how we can think about health differently in our communities.
“I think my big life goal and purpose is to be able to exponentially impact the lives of others through the opportunities and blessings that I’ve had given to me,” says Singh. “If I can live a life of meaningful service, then I will feel like I have done my job.”
If there is one thing Jonathan Nass (BBA ’07) makes sure he has in life, it’s variety.
Growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Nass worked hard to attend WSB. He caddied at a golf course in his hometown for more than 10 years and received a full-tuition Evans Scholarship from the Western Golf Association for academic excellence and outstanding character.
“Becoming an Evans Scholar taught me that if you work hard and put the effort into it, you can earn and achieve great things,” he says. “I try to apply that same principle to every challenge I face.”
Nass, who majored in accounting and finance, joined EY in Chicago in 2012 and is now a manager in the company’s financial services risk management division. He first wanted to pursue an accounting career, but the variety in consulting gained more appeal as his career progressed and he put into practice some of the project work he first did in classes at WSB.
“What’s kept me in consulting for more than nine years now is the continuous evolution of my career,” he says. “I always have the option to direct my career where I want it to go as I become more interested in specialized areas.”
The most challenging part, Nass says, is keeping up with the changes in direction.
“Three years ago I wasn’t doing this type of work, and a lot of the folks in my current practice have more experience,” he says. “It’s been a challenge getting up to speed, and learning the specialties and nuances of each firm and how this topic impacts each one differently.”
Nass has also dabbled in entrepreneurship. In 2014, he and his brother-in-law started a clothing business called The American Gentleman. The business, an e-commerce site featuring American-made clothing and brands, aims to support Chicago and U.S. brands.
Looking toward his future goals and challenges, Nass thinks big, with goals of becoming a partner and leader in the firm.
“I want to have as big of an impact as I can in the company,” he says. “That will in turn impact the industries we work with and communities they operate in.”
—Ben Van Roo (B.S. ’01, MBA ’03, Ph.D. ’07)
Ben Van Roo (B.S. ’01, MBA ’03, Ph.D. ’07) has a very simple description for what he likes to do: solve complex problems.
He has done that throughout his career so far, from working with entrepreneurs to helping plan military operations. As a triple Badger in engineering and computer science, business, and operations research, he acquired the skill set to tackle a variety of challenges.
“I’ve always worked with people who are better mathematicians, computer scientists, or researchers than I am,” Van Roo says, “but I feel in the real world there is a lot of value in being able to get your head around complexity by being all of those things.”
Van Roo is steeped in the Bay Area’s entrepreneurial culture, advising startups after working for five years as vice president in supply chain, analytics and data science at the educational services company Chegg Inc. The Wisconsin native has been in California for a decade, and opportunities there sent him around the globe.
In 2008, Van Roo took a job as a policy analyst for The RAND Corporation, a global policy nonprofit that provides research and analysis for the U.S. and international governments. He primarily worked with the U.S. Department of Defense on domestic and international strategy and policy problems and traveled to military bases and operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Korea, Japan, and throughout the U.S.
“The questions were often framed by developing mathematical models to represent the problem and the set of alternative solutions. That was the easy part,” he says. “The hard part is to figure out how to account for everything else—literacy of the population, neglected or destroyed infrastructure, local or regional geopolitics.”
Van Roo believes he could meet those challenges because of the wide range of his education and experience at UW, which remains a passion for him. He serves on the WSB’s Wisconsin Business Alumni (WBA) Board, the College of Letters & Science’s Computer Sciences Board, and the board of the Badger Entrepreneurship Forum in the Bay Area. As a problem-solver who can bridge the worlds of science, technology, and business, he wants to help others pursue their goals.
His three UW degrees add to his family’s total, joining his brother Jon (B.S. ’97, M.D. ’06) and his mother, Sharon Quale (B.A. ’05), who earned an English degree after she retired from nursing. His father, Lt. Col. Richard Van Roo, and brother Lt. Col. Bart Van Roo also attended UW prior to their military training.
“I’m just a small-town kid who lucked out by coming to an amazing institution and had awesome people help me along the way,” he says. “I’m so indebted to this university.”
Nicole Nelson (BBA ’03, MAcc ’04) was always going to grow up to do what she does best: perform. For Nelson, her passion takes many forms—from leading firm trainings to competing professionally in national dance competitions.
Nelson is currently a director at BDO USA, LLP in Orange County, California, and the founder, president, and CEO of nonprofit organization Right 2 Rhythm.
At BDO, as an audit quality director, Nelson focuses on audit quality, standards, and policies. She recently gained a new position in BDO’s global firm and is developing the next generation of BDO’s internal audit software. Her roles also involve developing and facilitating firm trainings at national and international levels.
“I discovered a love for teaching when I had the opportunity to TA a class during my master’s year at WSB,” she says. “I love to perform, so teaching is natural to me as I get to be up in front of an audience.”
Nelson’s BDO role is part time, allowing her to start and run a nonprofit—Right 2 Rhythm, which helps bring dance to children.
“I’ve always been able to connect with people through dance,” she says. “It’s inspired me to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to do that in life.”
The organization focuses on three areas: providing scholarships for children to take dance lessons; contributing funds to other existing dance nonprofit organizations; and working with schools and youth groups. Since 2012, Right 2 Rhythm has helped hundreds of kids gain access to dance.
“Kids are born with the natural ability to get out there and just move to the music. Somewhere along the way a lot of us lose that,” she says. “I felt it was really important to bring dance to kids throughout their formative years.”
Nelson finds enormous fulfillment in the delicate balance of her two worlds: accounting and dance.
“You could be making all the money in the world, but if you’re not excited about what you do each day, is it really worth doing?” she says. “I have an enriching career which stimulates my mind, an avenue to pursue my passion for dance, and a way to contribute to others. It makes for a fulfilling life. I’m thankful for the skills I learned at the WSB that allow me to make it all work.”
Photo by Jim Newberry
Associate, Lerer Hippeau Ventures
Throughout his career in finance and venture capital, Julian Moncada (BBA ’12) has found his ability to think creatively to be just as valuable as his business skills.
Moncada, a Minneapolis native, studied finance and international business at the Wisconsin School of Business but knew his creative mind and aptitude for technology meant he was destined for the entrepreneurial world.
“Penetrating that industry as an outsider was certainly a challenge, but it was one I embraced,” he says.
At the start of his career, Moncada spent his free time immersed in Chicago’s tech and startup community—attending workshops, networking, and learning to code. He even published his own app. Those experiences forged important connections and gave him invaluable knowledge about the industry.
Thanks to his networking efforts, Moncada established contacts in the New York tech community, too. He is an associate on the investment team at Lerer Hippeau Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital fund in New York City. Each year he meets with hundreds of entrepreneurs who are starting companies in areas as diverse as biotech, commerce, and virtual reality and helps advise and shepherd them to the next phase of their business.
“I try to understand their business and take that to our partners at my firm,” he says. “There’s a certain science and a certain art to what we do. A lot of it is determining if we can fit into the vision an entrepreneur has.”
Doing this effectively, Moncada says, requires having diverse, creative perspectives and he brings a valuable outsider’s point of view to his team’s work because he isn’t from Silicon Valley or New York. He and his colleagues can also tap into the wide range of perspectives that come from the variety of startups they see, and the people behind them.
“No two companies and no two founders are the same,” he says. “My favorite part of my job is being able to invest, make an impact, and see big visions come to fruition.”
Moncada says the skills he honed at WSB helped him break into the venture capital and entrepreneurship worlds.
“I continuously draw on what I learned there—not just work ethic but also ingenuity. I spend my spare time picking up extra skills, going outside of my comfort zone, and reaching out to new people,” he says. “The School opened my eyes to what the possibilities were.”
Melissa Turczyn (BBA ’04, JD ’07) wanted to be an attorney since she was in second grade.
With a determination that would come to define her throughout both her academic and professional career, Turczyn made her second-grade goal a reality.
She moved from her hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin, to Madison in 2000 and became a messenger at the law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich in 2003. Turczyn says both her background in business and her early presence at the firm gave her an invaluable foot in the door.
“Working at Michael Best as a student gave me the opportunity to ask questions and get to know attorneys in the office,” says Turczyn, who is now an equity partner in the firm. “Everybody’s door was open to me.”
Turczyn went on to receive her UW law degree in 2007. Later that year, she started full time at Michael Best. Now, she works as general counsel for entrepreneurs, helping them start companies, fundraise, onboard employees, review contracts, and navigate legal challenges.
“What I really like about my job is that I get to work with really high-energy people,” she says. “A lot of them are eager for knowledge; it’s not only their first startup, but it’s often their first business in general.”
Turczyn takes pride in her personal and professional commitment to her clients.
“The biggest challenge I have working with startups is the time commitment,” she says. “It really is 24/7. They don’t have 9-to-5 problems, they have Sunday at 10:30 in the morning problems.”
Helping her clients through the ups and downs creates long-lasting friendships. In fact, EatStreet CEO Matt Howard (B.S. ’11) will be a witness in Turczyn’s wedding.
“My clients inspire me,” she says. “When I see how hard they’re working, I am driven to work just as hard to be a true partner to them. It takes all of us for them to achieve success”
Turczyn advanced from contract partner to equity partner in 2017, achieving in 18 months what typically takes three or more years. Although her climb to the top went faster than most, she still has her sights set on future goals.
“My goals are to continue to help the entrepreneurial community in Madison—and bigger than that, in other cities between the coasts,” she says. “The startup ecosystem has a lot of pieces to it, but we all have to work together to make it successful.”
—SETH R. HENSLOVITZ,
Partner, Schulte Roth & Zabel
As a child who loved Monopoly, real estate used to be a game for Seth R. Henslovitz (BBA ’02). Now, it’s a passion, one that has put him in the midst of high-profile real estate deals as a partner in a leading New York City law firm.
Henslovitz grew up in a New Jersey town that was notable for being home to many prominent real estate developers. Having experience in that environment brought him to the Wisconsin School of Business and its strong real estate program.
Today Henslovitz is a partner in the Real Estate Group at Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP in New York City, a firm ranked among American Lawyer magazine’s “Global 100: Top-Grossing Law Firms in the World.” Henslovitz regularly provides counsel on complex and high-stakes commercial real estate deals. He represents lenders and borrowers in connection with mortgage and mezzanine financings, as well as representing real estate developers and operators on acquisitions and dispositions of commercial properties and restructurings, and negotiations of joint venture agreements. In this role, he has advised a leading private equity firm on billions of dollars of mortgage and mezzanine loan originations.
“Schulte’s corporate clients are constantly buying and selling companies; any time real estate is involved, our Real Estate Group handles it,” Henslovitz says. In 2015 he worked on the acquisition of the U.S.’s second-largest grocery store chain, consisting of more than 1,000 retail stores nationwide.
In addition, he worked on the $1.2 billion sale of the historic Helmsley Building at 230 Park Ave. in Manhattan. The high-profile deal was one of the largest New York City office building sale transactions in recent years.
In recognition of those industry-leading deals, Henslovitz was named one of the 2016 “Fifty Under 40: Up-and-Coming Leaders and Best-In-Class Young Commercial Real Estate Executives” by Real Estate Forum.
“Negotiations can get tough at times but knowing that I could help further someone’s business goals certainly inspires me,” he says.
Henslovitz continues to work on highly complicated transactions and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s exhilarating,” he says. “The amount of knowledge I have gained, the people in the industry I have met, and the deals that I have worked on excite me for what is to come in the future.”
Shira Weiner (BBA ’09) can still remember the day she sat on Bascom Hill and figured out her future.
She was a senior at the Wisconsin School of Business studying management and human resources and active in student leadership activities, looking for a way to combine those interests. A chat with Don Schutt, senior director of talent management at UW–Madison, made the light bulb go off above her head.
“I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s what I want to do: work in HR for nonprofit or education,’” says Weiner, now manager of executive recruitment for Hillel International.
Weiner works in the nonprofit world and helps others who want to work or transition to that field. The talent team she is part of at Hillel, the world’s largest Jewish campus organization, helps recruit and hire mid-career or executive-level positions for approximately 350 Hillel centers in North America.
Volunteer work at an early age made an impact on Weiner, who soon made the connection that nonprofits benefit from sound business practices as much as any corporation would.
“They need secure finances, they need strong marketing, and they need to be a great place to work,” says Weiner, who lives and works in Denver. “Our organization has to run effectively so we can achieve our mission and goals.”
As a student, she found a passion for matching people’s skills to their goals and interests through leadership roles at the Wisconsin Union Directorate that gave Weiner her first experience with recruiting. Prior to working for Hillel, where she’s part of hiring and supporting 900 professionals nationwide, she led teams hiring young adults to work in the City Year AmeriCorps schools program.
“At UW, so many people learn a lot in the classroom and then learn as much or more outside of it because of the organizations they’re involved with,” she says. “That’s true of all the Badgers I’ve hired, too.”
As she works to recruit new team members to Hillel, Weiner remembers a key lesson she learned at the Wisconsin School of Business—the importance of organizational culture. It might even be more important in the nonprofit sector than the for-profit world, Weiner says.
“We’re not motivating people with big paychecks,” she says. “People are our bottom line. If you have great people running your organization, you will achieve your mission, and that will positively impact the entire community.”
Photo by Anya Semenoff
Manager of executive recruitment, Hillel International
work in the NYC area. Frank is the head of Global CRM for the music streaming company TIDAL and Marie is director of corporate communications for Verizon. In November Frank was elected to a three-year term on the five-person Maplewood, New Jersey Township Committee. Their daughter, Madison, is an aspiring actress performing in several off-Broadway shows and showcases. More Class Notes »