Putting an MBA Degree to Work for a Community Lincoln County

Randy Brandner MBA’99 had plenty to do.

UW Connections in Lincoln County

Data Source: University of Wisconsin Service Center

He was finishing up his Executive MBA at UW–Madison, serving as president of the Merrill Chamber of Commerce, and working at Church Mutual Insurance Company.

He was dealing with cramped quarters at the chamber offices and found out that a building might be available for donation, solving the space crunch. That’s when he proposed forming the Merrill Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a charitable organization able to receive the gift. He became its first president after it was formed in the early 2000s.

“I recognized the need for a foundation. Without my UW–Madison experience, I never would have suggested setting up the foundation,” says Brandner, now vice president of product management at Church Mutual. Today, the foundation is involved in a number of civic beautification, park, and holiday projects. In 2011, through community donations, it helped to support the victims of a devastating tornado.

Without my UW–Madison experience, I never would have suggested setting up the foundation. Without a doubt, achieving that Executive MBA allowed me to advance my position.

“Without a doubt, achieving that Executive MBA allowed me to advance my position at Church Mutual,” the Medford native says. “That experience at UW–Madison created an entire new awareness related to business and the interconnectivity of business organizations throughout the world.”

Brandner is heavily involved in volunteer activities in the Merrill area.

“I try to volunteer in the community as much as I can. I’ve coached Little League and basketball, worked on fundraisers, sat on boards, and worked with Special Olympics,” Brandner says. “A lot of people up here are very generous with their time.”

Brandner came to the Executive MBA program with an associate degree in insurance services from North Central Technical College and passed the tests to enter the program.

“As I advanced my career at Church Mutual, I recognized that a degree would be important,” Brandner says. “The big takeaway was that it gave me the ability to think critically, and that’s been a tremendous benefit to me.”