Each year, the College of Engineering recognizes outstanding alumni during Engineers’ Day—a celebration of engineers, held on Homecoming weekend. Nancy Spelsberg is among the engineers we will honor in 2019 at an Oct. 11 banquet.
When the Wisconsin Badgers football team travels to away games, a semi-truck full of gear leads the way. That’s thanks to Nancy, whose freight trucking company, BCP Transportation, has served the team’s transportation needs for the past several years.
When she earned her degree, she didn’t set out to own a trucking company. Rather, she spent more than a decade with Alliant Energy, working first as a business and financial performance consultant and ultimately as manager of strategic account management.
She had always dreamed of owning a small business, and after earning her MBA and contacting dozens of small manufacturers in Wisconsin, the opportunity arose. Nancy started her business with four trucks and less than 10 employees in 2011. Today, the company employs more than 140 workers, its fleet numbers more than 100 trucks, and it includes warehousing, equipment maintenance and a service shop. In summer 2019, she converted the company to an employee stock ownership plan.
We are honoring Nancy as an inspiring industrial engineer and entrepreneur who is driving success in the trucking industry through continuous improvement and systems thinking.
Recently, we chatted with her about everything from her memories as a student at UW-Madison to her career and hobbies. Here are her responses to some of our questions.
How did you choose to attend UW-Madison?
I’m from Minnesota, and what attracted me to UW was the quality of the engineering program and the fact that my brother and sister both went there at the time.
Why did you choose engineering?
I had always really done well and enjoyed math, and two of my mom’s sisters are engineers. They were civil engineers and I was inspired by them being women in engineering, long before there was even a push for that type of thing.
What professor or class made the greatest impact on you?
Professor Stephen Robinson taught an operations class that I really enjoyed. And I think that class in particular was what sparked my interest in operations manufacturing. He was a pretty serious guy, but you could tell he had a passion for the curriculum and for what he was doing and I respected that.
What advice would you give to students today?
Within industrial engineering, there’s a whole host of different specialties and pathways, but you don’t know where you’re going to end up or which tools you’re going to end up using in various points in your career. So just be open to the fact that the class or curriculum you’re learning right now might be valuable at later points in your life. And that path is not necessarily always dictated by us, it’s also by circumstance and opportunity.
What are a few of your best memories from your time as a student?
Once I started spending the summers in Madison and working there, I really have some good memories from that. One summer I worked for Professor Bentzi Karsh. We were working with a group that investigates complaints against nurses’ aides. They were constantly in backlog. We came in, interviewed all the employees and looked at their whole process from start to finish and then made recommendations on how they could handle more investigations at one time, and get them done in a more timely, yet thorough, way. It was excellent direct industrial engineering experience right here on campus.
My parents, Dr. Thomas and Liza Spelsberg, and my significant other, Todd Jourdan.