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Get to Know Annie Nistler, J.D./M.B.A. Graduate

Annie Nistler was born and raised in Grand Forks, ND and attended K-12 at Thompson Public School. She is the 3rd of 4 kids and a daughter to two proud UND alumni parents.

“My freshman year started in 2016 with a major in business economics and a minor in sports business. I joined Alpha Chi Omega (following in the footsteps of my grandma, my mom, and my older sister) and became active in Greek life. That was really a learning year for me. It’s tough to know at 18 what you want to do with the rest of your life, so by sophomore year, I had switched to a major in business management hoping to grow that into a career in sports management. I felt my junior and senior year that I really started growing as a young professional. I attended more of the speaking events UND hosted, I participated more in class, and I really felt that I was thriving in the business management world. COVID hit during my senior year and there was no graduation, but the school still made it memorable!”

During Annie’s undergrad, she was involved in the Sports Business Student Association and took trips to Minneapolis and Winnipeg and toured different sports venues. “In 2017, I took a bus from Grand Forks to San Antonio with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and attended the SEEK conference which was truly a lifechanging experience. Between that, Greek life, intramurals, working at the Sioux Shop, and spending time with my friends and family, I could not have asked for a better undergraduate experience.”

When asked what her hobbies are, Annie responded, “Today, it’s tough to answer when people ask me what my hobbies are. I’ve been in school for the past 20 years, so my instinct is to say “learning.” I do love to learn through a variety of mediums! I also like to go to my family’s cabin in Bemidji, MN during the summers, binge watch Bravo TV shows, have appetizers and drinks on patios with my friends, listen to music, online shop, and spend time with my siblings.”

Why did you decide to pursue not only your bachelor’s degree; but also, your JD and MBA from UND?

I attended UND for my bachelor’s degree because I wanted to experience that passion that I see in all of the graduates. And luckily, the faculty, staff, students, and the entire campus made it the best decision. My parents went to UND, my older siblings went to UND, my grandpa played football and hockey at UND in the 40s, I have aunts and uncles that attended UND, so it was truly my dream to attend this school since I was probably 3 years old. There are many home videos of myself and my siblings singing Stand Up and Cheer!

The decision to stay at UND for law school was again a no-brainer. My dad had recently passed away, so I wanted to stay close to my mom, and I also wasn’t ready to give up my time at UND. I had forged relationships with people at the university and going anywhere else would put me at square one again. I also knew that there is truly nothing like North Dakota nice. Professors care about your success and the class sizes are such that you’re able to speak up and get direct feedback or meet with a professor and they know your name. If my undergrad experience was so fulfilling, I knew that I could trust UND to also hire the same quality of people in the law school as they did in the business school.

During the spring semester of my first year of law school, I learned about the joint JD/MBA program. In short, UND requires 90 credits to graduate with a JD and 34 credits to graduate with an MBA. However, the joint program allows you to transfer 9 of your MBA credits to your JD requirements, so technically speaking you would only need 81 law credits and 34 MBA credits.

I knew that now was the time to get my master’s as well, because it would be increasingly difficult to find the motivation to go back to school as I got older. Additionally, I was finding in my first year of law school that I missed the business environment, and I wanted my law career to be in a business rather than with a firm. I didn’t realize just how many career options there are for lawyers outside of criminal, civil, family, and the other jobs that you most often hear about for attorneys.

I was accepted into the master’s program that spring and started summer 2021. I was so happy to be back with some of my former business professors and get back to learning more familiar topics!

I have since calculated the total cost of getting three degrees from UND, and there is truly nowhere else that you will get this sort of quality education, this sort of one-on-one attention, this sort of overall experience at this price.

What was your experience like at UND in the J.D./M.B.A. program? 

Looking back having now completed it, all I have are the best things to say about my entire experience in both the business and the law school. While I was in it, however, it was difficult to balance the styles and expectations of the two schools because they do require different learning styles, citation styles, discussion styles, etc. The MBA courses are 7 PM – 10 PM offered Monday through Thursday, with different courses offered each semester. The JD courses are primarily held during the day, so there were some pretty long days!

In the law school, I stayed involved in sports through the law school’s Sports Law Student Association and business through the Business Law Association. The business school opens their organizations to master’s students, so I attended Women in Business meetings when I could, as well as Summits and other panels. Through those experiences, I was able to meet and network with so many professionals within the school, within the region, and within a variety of industries.

In 2021, I started working as a GTA in the management department and every professor that I worked for was understanding of the time commitment that I was giving to school. Michelle Garske, bless her heart, has sent me kind reminders to submit my hours for confirmation more times than she probably would have liked!

There were many other people who helped, both to smooth out the experience and to provide extra support. Kate Oachs, the MBA coordinator, helped immensely with knowing which courses had pre-requisites and when they would be offered next (since not every class is offered every semester) and how best to map out my MBA credits. Bradley Parrish, the assistant dean of student services in the law school, answered dozens of my emails to make sure that I was meeting the requirements for the law school, checked my transcript over and over to ensure I was on track, and overall, just went above and beyond. I didn’t know anyone ahead of me that had been through the joint degree program to ask for help, so Dean Parrish was that person for me during my JD/MBA journey. He truly cares about the students here and will be able to answer the question immediately or do the behind the scenes work to get the answer.

Kathy Lund with the Pancratz Center also helped in setting me up with a mentor, talking about my CliftonStrengths, and just being a sounding board. The law school does have job postings, but they are more for jobs that lean the traditional legal sect, such as law clerk, associate, etc. I reached out to Kathy in hopes that she could keep an eye out for business law jobs or something that would fit with my educational background. She ended up connecting me with Sarah Nupdal who is in-house counsel for Bell Bank. Sarah was gracious and talked with me about the business law route and offered assistance however I might need. It has been great to have strong, kind, and intelligent people to support me during my educational journey.

What do you intend to do with your J.D./M.B.A. degrees?

That is the million-dollar question! Going into law school, I was envious of my classmates that knew exactly why they were there and exactly where they wanted to go next. I never saw the law firm route for myself and am a bit terrified of being in front of a judge to litigate.

I externed at Cambria in Eden Prairie, MN, last summer to get a feel for the in-house route and I truly loved it. Coming from a management background, we really focused learning about corporate organizations, so I have always seen myself in corporate America working for a company that I can truly get behind and advocate for. Ultimately, in-house counsel would be my goal, but I’m prepared to pay my dues and earn my rank in a similar position!

Do you have any advice for students who might have an interest in the program?

The advice that I would offer to other students is to use your resources! Do not try and do everything on your own or assume that you will figure it out. The staff and faculty in both colleges are more than willing to help and if you reach out to the wrong person, they’ll point you in the right direction.

As I mentioned, each degree requires a different type of learning style. I struggled at first to switch my brain and thought process between the two, so don’t be discouraged if there is a learning curve until you figure out how to tackle each.

Be sure to get involved in both colleges! No one understands the law school struggle like your fellow students. The organizations are a great way to hear from speakers that are established lawyers, professors, etc. in a variety of industries. The MBA classes are all online, so don’t be afraid to chat with classmates in breakout groups or during group projects because you never know who might be an ally in a class or job down the road. Being in the JD/MBA program means you are likely on campus attending law courses and strictly online for the MBA courses, but don’t be afraid to stop by Nistler Hall and meet with business professors in person or attend events hosted by the business school.