CSU alum rewrites her future through the Impact MBA

Addie Arnold sits in front of Colorado State University sign

“Having mostly men in my classes could make me sometimes feel like an outsider during undergrad,” Addie Arnold, ’17 admitted. “It made it hard to make connections with my classmates or feel passionate about the subject.”

Arnold wasn’t going to settle for a path that didn’t make her happy. Experiencing women’s underrepresentation in business education and firms ignited a passion for empowering and supporting other women in their business pursuits.

This passion ultimately guided her to WomenVenture, a nonprofit supporting female entrepreneurs in St. Paul, Minn.  The steps she took to volunteer for the organization set her up for a professional role. Not yet 30, Arnold now serves WomenVenture as its Vice President of Operations. The organization served nearly 3,000 clients in 2021, distributing more than $1 million and raising $2 million in loan capital.

Explore an unconventional route, trust your gut, move beyond your comfort zone and you may just find the work you’re truly passionate about. Addie Arnold did. Her route was not always clear, but she took every opportunity presented to her to find exactly what she was looking for.

A new direction

It wasn’t until Arnold’s trip with Rams on Wall Street, an opportunity for finance majors to go to New York City and learn about the industry, that she realized her passions laid elsewhere.  

“After meeting with all of the finance professionals, I knew that the culture and fit weren’t for me to continue down the investment or banking finance path,” she said. 

The experience helped her grow and discover herself. It was too late to change course for her bachelor’s degree, so Arnold started applying for graduate programs. 

“I thought I needed to continue learning and find something that really fit my needs, so that’s what led me to the Impact MBA,” Arnold said.  

Despite lacking the required professional experience for the program, Impact MBA director Kathryn Ernst and program manager Shelby Sack advocated for and accepted Arnold into the program as the youngest member of her cohort. She joined the program’s solar energy group, then accepted a finance position in the solar industry.

Addie Arnold stands with two men holding "I work in clean energy" signs
Arnold with colleagues at solar industry position in Minnesota

“Addie’s success in the program and in her career really spurred change in our admission criteria,” Sack said. “I loved that Addie was one of the first graduates of her cohort to land a position with a company that she worked with during her summer venture work. She obviously makes a great and lasting impression.”

After graduating, Arnold moved to Minnesota to settle in at her new position with her entrepreneurship skills and a passion for helping others succeed.

Although it was a step in the right direction, a finance position didn’t fulfill her passion for service. She started volunteering at WomenVenture, exploring her passions in her free time. It was a perfect bridge between her finance background and her drive to make the world a better place.

“Women have a really hard time, especially small business owners getting business loans, and they’re a lot less likely to be approved for a loan, even with the exact same credit as their male counterparts,” Arnold explained.

As she volunteered with the organization, Arnold served as a mentor and led classes on building business plans. Months later, a full-time position opened with the nonprofit.

“I feel really lucky to have taken that step because it is a little bit scary to get out of your box and volunteer,” she said. “Everything just kind of fell into place.”

Lessons learned from an unconventional route

Discovering your path isn’t always straightforward. For Arnold, it took trial and error, exploration, and ultimately, a leap of faith.

She urges those who are considering an unconventional route to first discover what they believe in and what they stand for.

“Get a little bit out of your comfort zone and very intentionally take opportunities that are presented,” she said. “I think a lot of people are in that position where you feel like once you start in one lane, you need to keep going in that one lane. But it’s never too late to just try something new, even if you need to start from the beginning.”

Her path was far from direct, but by leaning into her passion and gaining knowledge through the Impact MBA, Arnold connected her skills and passions in a role where she empowers women every day.

Addie Arnold stands with three women
Arnold, left, with her team at WomenVenture

About CSU’s College of Business

The College of Business at Colorado State University is focused on using business to create a better world.

As an AACSB-accredited business school, the College is among the top five percent of business colleges worldwide, providing programs and career support services to more than 2,500 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students. Faculty help students across our top-ranked on-campus and online programs develop the knowledge, skills and values to navigate a rapidly evolving business world and address global challenges with sustainable business solutions. Our students are known for their creativity, work ethic and resilience—resulting in an undergraduate job offer and placement rate of over 90% within 90 days of graduation.

The College’s highly ranked programs include its Online MBA, which has been ranked the No. 1 program in Colorado by U.S. News and World Report for five years running and achieved No. 16 for employability worldwide from QS Quacquarelli Symonds. The College’s Impact MBA is also ranked by Corporate Knights as a Top 20 “Better World MBA” worldwide.