Veteran alumna leads with service

Veteran and alumna Natalie Isensee spoke at UW-Platteville’s I Am Not Invisible Women Veterans Event in April 2023.
Veteran and alumna Natalie Isensee spoke at UW-Platteville’s I Am Not Invisible Women Veterans Event in April 2023.

Natalie Isensee's attraction to the military stemmed, in part, from the numerous leadership opportunities it presented. However, her time in service offered her much more than anticipated. Natalie has since utilized her skillset and experiences to give back to her fellow veterans, her community and the university. 

Isensee’s military service began while she was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While there, she joined the Marine Corps Officer Program and later completed the Officer Candidate School. After graduation, she was commissioned in the Marine Corps as a logistics officer, and her passion for serving her country led her to active duty. In 2003, Isensee was deployed to Kuwait, where she played a crucial role in the initial invasion of Iraq. She and her unit crossed the border into Iraq on the very day the war began.

Isensee served in the Marine Corps until 2005, and then moved back to Madison, Wisconsin, with her family. She was working in distribution operations and supply chain when she decided to go back to school and found UW-Platteville’s project management program. 

“I took one class, Project Management Fundamentals 1, and really enjoyed it. I was able to learn concepts in the class and apply them at work that same day. I went from there and started taking one class at a time,” she said. “All the classes in combination really helped fill in a lot of knowledge gaps for me. And they were gaps I didn't even know that I had. That's where I got the immediate value of the classes. That's how I was able to apply them right away – because there were things I didn't realize about business operations.”

Isensee's capstone project delved into the crucial topic of veterans' transition from active duty to civilian life, examining how companies can better support them during this time. Through her graduate studies, Isensee gained valuable insights that have proven instrumental in her current role as the manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at WPS Health Solutions. Her job allows her to focus on enhancing the employee experience and fostering inclusive leadership. 

Her experience in the military has been beneficial in this position as well. 

“In the military, we got to work with a wide variety of people, which was really one of the most wonderful things about it," said Isensee. "We were able to work together as very strong, cohesive teams to accomplish some missions that seemed almost impossible. But by working together as a team, we were able to get those done, and those teams are absolutely stronger because of the diversity of them. We got to see that in action, and now I know exactly how great a team can be.” 

Isensee's dedication and passion for service and advocacy extend far beyond the walls of her workplace and into her community. She volunteers as the community engagement director of the Madison Chapter of Team Red, White, and Blue (Team RWB), a national organization that connects veterans to the community through fitness-based and social activities. Isensee also serves on Wisconsin Governor Evers’ Blue Ribbon Commission on Veterans Opportunity, which is focused on helping veterans transition from military service to civilian life.

Additionally, Isensee has used her experiences to give back to UW-Platteville. She earned her Master of Science in Project Management in 2012 and recently returned to campus as an alumna to speak at the I Am Not Invisible Women Veterans Event, which honored women veterans and service members. The daylong event included a roundtable discussion with other women veterans from the university and community and an exhibit courtesy of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum called “I Am Not Invisible.”  

In 2022, Isensee was awarded the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Woman Veteran of the Year Award. The award recognizes women veterans in Wisconsin who have shown exemplary service as active members of the military, veterans and members of their communities. “Honestly, it’s such an honor because when I look at the women who have received the award before me, it’s just humbling to be in the same company,” Isensee said.