Exterior of Nancy Nicholas Hall in the evening, with lamps and windows glowing.
News & Events

The Power of Internships: Q&A with Michael Axelrod

Story by Maddie Kranz x’24, UW–Madison student studying Community & Nonprofit Leadership and Art History.

Michael Axelrod ’93 started his wealth management career in 1992 as a junior majoring in consumer science. Working closely with Human Ecology’s internship coordinator, he secured a highly competitive internship at Northwestern Mutual and was named a National “Top 10” intern in 1992 and 1993. Today, Axelrod is a Principal at Bleakley Financial Group and has played an integral role in helping grow the firm while helping clients across the country manage their finances.

As a member of the School of Human Ecology Dean’s Advisory Board, he is committed to helping establish the personal finance program as one of the best nationally and globally. Axelrod supports student learning through the Michael Axelrod Collaborative Learning Hall — a frequently-used classroom in Nancy Nicholas Hall that was designed to make it easy for students to work together in small groups and practice teamwork.

Michael Axelrod and his family standing in front of an orange wall with the words "Michael Axelrod Collaborative Learning Hall" on it
Michael Axelrod and his family at the dedication of the Michael Axelrod Collaborative Learning Hall in 2013.

How did your internship as a student help you get to where you are today?

My internship with Northwestern Mutual started my career in wealth management. I learned about discipline, desire and working hard towards a goal. I discovered that I enjoyed the field of wealth management, and I learned about the benefits of a successful career in the space. Internships let you know if you like the career or not. Learning that a specific field or interest is not for you can be just as valuable as learning you love it.

My internship also prepared me with the skills to build my career in wealth management. I was fortunate to hit the ground running on day one of my full-time career. While in school, I spent over a year working and bringing on clients. As I started my career, these clients gave me a tremendous amount of referrals. To this day, I still have many of my original clients! They have blossomed over time and continue to grow along with me.

Why do you think internships are important?

I care so much about Human Ecology students having successful internships to explore their fields. The experiences can be as valuable as any class that is taken in a college career. It is so wonderful to see students have internships, graduate and then follow through with successful careers.

What makes you proud to be a Human Ecology alum?

I am so proud of the School of Human Ecology. I love walking through Nancy Nicholas Hall and seeing all spaces and resources for learning that the students have in front of them. I am proud of our amazing culture and everything that the school does for the students and for the community.