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Director of Sales Joins Jenkins MBA Program in Pursuit of Lifelong Learning

With a passion for lifelong learning, Chelsea Lassen’s path to the Poole College Jenkins MBA program has taken many exciting and unexpected turns. From her Midwest upbringing, to a 20-year competitive figure skating career and an undergraduate degree in the sciences – eventually, all roads led to NC State. 

A native of Battle Creek, Mich., Lassen attended Western Michigan University to pursue an undergraduate degree in exercise science and community health. “I chose a degree in exercise science specifically so I’d never have to work in sales,” Lassen laughs. 

But after graduation, she had a change of heart and accepted a job as an on-premise manager for a Red Bull distributor. She excelled in her position and soon realized that when she was passionate about the product she was selling, she couldn’t be stopped. So, Lassen focused her efforts on getting into the craft beer industry – a huge passion of hers at the time. 

“The stars sort of aligned, and after about a year at the distributor, I took a job as a field sales and marketing rep for a national craft brewery, Bell’s Brewery,” Lassen says. As the brewery grew, so did Lassen’s role – including as a field service rep, key partnerships and promotions manager, and managing other field services reps. She moved to  North Carolina and soon was promoted as an area brand manager for multiple states in the southeast. “Accepting the field representative position was a strategic move for me,” she says. “The relocation gave me a break from Michigan winters, while also giving me experience to work for the brewery outside of their home market – positioning me well for future opportunities.” 

Her instincts were right. Shortly after moving to North Carolina, she was recruited by Asheville-based company Diamond Brand Gear and accepted a role as director of sales. Since 1881, the company has manufactured hand-made outdoor and mountain lifestyle gear, and in her role, Lassen is responsible for field marketing, customer engagement, strategic partnerships and brand management. Increased growth and opportunity at Diamond Brand, coupled with a passion for continued learning, are what led Lassen to pursue her MBA. 

“I’d always been interested in continuing my education, especially for something more business-focused,” Lassen says.

“It was one of those things where I knew that grad school was inevitable for me, it was just a matter of the right time and program.” 

Before applying, she took a number of online courses focused on marketing and leadership but it was the recommendation of a long-time friend that really pushed her to apply for an MBA program as the next step in her career. Once the decision was made, choosing the part-time online MBA program at NC State was a no-brainer. 

“NC State has one of the best online MBA programs. Their focus on leadership – and the opportunity to apply for, and eventually be accepted to, the McLauchlan Fellowship – is ultimately what sold me,” she says.

Now, two years into the program, Lassen is taking what she’s learning in the virtual classroom to her role at Diamond Brand Gear. She credits classes with Chris Hitch, adjunct lecturer in management, innovation and entrepreneurship, as being the most impactful courses so far.

Working with professor Hitch and taking Creating Value in Organizations (MBA 580) and Strategic Operations Management (MBA 590) have made the MBA worth it. There’s just so much practical value coming out of those courses.

With graduation on the horizon, Chelsea Lassen is grateful for the knowledge, friends and career resources that the Jenkins MBA Program at Poole College have given her. And the one thing she knows for sure, is that regardless of where her journey takes her, she never wants to stop learning.