While he will cross the commencement stage along with more than 600 graduates Saturday, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point senior and Stevens Point native Tyler Patoka is already a few steps ahead of many.
Over the past semester, Patoka has been taking classes for UW-Stevens Point’s master’s degree in business administration (MBA), while finishing his undergraduate degree in finance and management. He is one of 11 students in the 4+1 MBA program (four years undergraduate, one year graduate). He is also one of five taking both graduate and undergraduate courses at the same time.
“When the new MBA program was announced, Assistant Professor Lyna Matesi persuaded me to get out of my comfort zone and sign up,” he said. “I felt this program was a good fit for me because it would be both challenging and rewarding. I knew I would regret it later if I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity presented to me.”
As an emerging leader, Patoka secured an early career advantage by immediately adding an MBA to his undergraduate degree, said Matesi, director of the MBA program.
“Tyler is an outstanding student who represents the best of us,” she said. “He excels in the classroom and community. I’ve seen Tyler encourage, direct and support teams to succeed together.”
UW-Stevens Point’s MBA in Applied Leadership and Decision-Making is a flexible hybrid program, offering combined online and in-person evening courses that make it easier for Patoka to arrange classes around his own schedule. “It is a one-year program with the same great professors, close to home. It also gives me a step up for hiring,” he said.
He’s already taken that step. In January, Patoka will start working part-time in Sentry Insurance’s finance department, while taking classes to complete his MBA in December 2020. In addition, he will continue to help coach the Stevens Point Area Senior High track team as he has for the last three years.
Patoka has found his graduate classes more focused on decision-making and collaboration, he said, which aligns closely with professional experiences that may offer unexpected issues, changing deadlines, team projects and opportunities for leadership.
His undergraduate experiences also gave him relevant instruction for his future career, he said. Professor Kevin Neuman made economics relatable to the world, and Professor Kevin Bahr used real-world examples in addition to academic learning.
“One of the benefits of being at a smaller campus is having more opportunities to know your professors and fellow colleagues,” he said. “They always have open doors, smaller class sizes and opportunities to strengthen your network of professionals.”
One of those opportunities was a highly competitive internship in Sentry Insurance claims department’s special investigations unit, he said. It involved handling sensitive material, doing research, interpreting data and making judgment calls. It also helped him secure his new part-time job with the company, which may lead to additional opportunities in the future.
Patoka’s hard work has been recognized with a Chancellor’s Leadership Award, given each semester to outstanding students who have contributed significant leadership, demonstrated campus or community service and shown a commitment to personal growth.
Patoka hopes to someday use his undergraduate and MBA degrees to become a financial adviser or investment analyst, helping a corporation or individuals build on their financial success.
“Professor Matesi saw potential in me in that I could lead by example,” he said. “Having an MBA will help me do that.”
To learn more about the UW-Stevens Point MBA program with classes in Wausau, Marshfield and Stevens Point, go to uwsp.edu/MBA or contact the School of Business and Economics at firstname.lastname@example.org or 715-346-4988.