Creative entrepreneur sets sights on finishing bachelor’s in business – online

Joey sitting next to his van and surfboard with a foldout table and his laptop

On a clear summer day at a Milwaukee beach on Lake Michigan, you might see people flying kites, freshwater surfing or having a picnic. You might also see Joey Nicgorski with his laptop on a folding table next to his van, studying for an exam or listening to a lecture.

“That kind of ambiance helps me focus,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to take in a lecture in a place that’s calm and peaceful to you, really from anywhere.”

Nicgorski can study from almost anywhere because he’s finishing his bachelor’s degree with UW–Madison Online. He decided to return to college after a 20-year break so he could progress in his career. A creative, entrepreneurial person, Nicgorski is going back on his own terms, focused and ready.

“Finishing my bachelor’s degree was the final puzzle piece to complete my journey of advancing roles at my current job,” he said. “I had exhausted every avenue of trying to climb the corporate ladder with experience and expertise. I needed to show the world I could set a challenging goal and see it through to completion.”

Ready to excel

Nicgorski currently works in the marketing department at Harley-Davidson, Inc. He likes his job, but he knows he needs a bachelor’s degree to move up in the company. 

He wasn’t always keen on higher education. Nicgorski, who was born in Milwaukee and grew up in Texas, enrolled at the University of Texas at San Antonio after graduating from high school. He spent two years there before realizing he didn’t want to incur more loans and wasn’t ready for college.

Headhot of Joey Nicgorski
Joey Nicgorski

After leaving school, he tapped into his creative side, playing in a rock band for more than a decade as well as tending bar and working at a local radio station. By 2018, he reassessed his life and got a job at a Harley store in San Antonio, which ultimately led him to the company’s headquarters in Milwaukee. There, he quickly discovered he needed more education to meet his career goals.

He joined Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Promise for Adults program. Taking advantage of flexible course offerings and free tuition, Nicgorski worked full time while taking classes. In December 2021, he graduated with a 4.0 and an associate degree in Business Administration and Management.

But his sights were set on a bachelor’s degree in business.

“I’d seen something online about UW–Madison Online. I didn’t even know that that was a thing,” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t think that would be something I was qualified for, coming out of a technical school and taking such a long break from education.”

A holistic review of his grades and credentials showed otherwise.

“When I found out that I was admitted to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I cried,” he said. “I realized that my childhood favorite school, my favorite football team and one of the best business schools in the country had admitted me into their program.”

‘The very best education’

Nicgorski chose the University of Wisconsin–Madison for its reputation and rigor. He’s enrolled in the online Business Administration-Marketing BBA program. 

“I wanted the very best education that my region offered,” he said. “I looked at other schools that would have accepted more credits from my previous collegiate excursions, but the instruction I have received at the Wisconsin School of Business has far surpassed my expectations of what a challenging yet rewarding learning experience can offer.”

Nicgorski’s always had a hand in marketing – be it through his band or other creative endeavors. Now through UW–Madison Online, he’s learning the latest skills and knowledge to successfully market products and services, which he’s immediately putting into practice at Harley, adding, “It has a direct impact on my career right now.”

From the highly ranked Wisconsin School of Business, he’s gaining skills in communication, collaboration, creativity, relationship building and planning. He’s learning to implement strategies related to product, distribution, price and promotion; analyze market segments and generate effective plans; leverage relevant sources to determine and support marketing actions; and apply analytical rigor to decisions.

All from top-tier instructors and alongside other dedicated Badgers. 

“Specific business professors have made a permanent impact on my future,” he said. “And interaction with my peers, although done remotely, has been my favorite part of the online degree program.”

Creating a future, on his terms

Nicgorski, set to graduate in 2025 from #12 ranked UW–Madison, is happy with his decision to go back to school, partly because he found a program that fits with his busy life, fully supported by his family.

“My mom is my biggest fan,” he said. “She’s always rooted for me in anything that I’ve ever done, which is a million things since I was a kid. I’ve been involved in everything from sports to music to making clothes to riding motorcycles. She’s backed me in every step of this process. 

“As soon as I told her I was going back – and she was the first person I told when I got accepted to the University of Wisconsin–Madison – we cried and hugged. She knows what this means to me. She probably wears more Badgers t-shirts than I do.”

Outside of working, studying and exploring new places with his van, Nicgorski makes time for family and creative pursuits – from painting and drawing to designing clothes in his garage studio.

“Creating things makes me the happiest,” he said. “School ties into that because you have to create papers and discussion questions and I like to use my brain for that, especially if I’m fascinated by the concept. Like my class on consumer marketing. I’m obsessed with those kinds of metrics.”

Nicgorski’s future seems as bright as the sun over Lake Michigan.

“My future plans include creating a multifaceted brand that covers a broad retail and music array,” he said. “UW–Madison is giving me the tools I can apply directly to my current job that give me an edge within my company to continue being promoted to new, challenging positions. When I get my bachelor’s degree, it’s going to be such a sense of accomplishment.” 

For more information, contact a UW–Madison Online enrollment coach by email at uwmadison@online.wisc.edu, by phone at 608-400-7459 or by text at 608-688-9118. 

Read The Ultimate Guide to Online Business Degrees for more information on getting your degree online.