Continuous improvement a recurrent theme for May dual-degree economics grad Nicolette Seder

Nicolette Seder

Nicolette Seder has balanced motherhood and a full-time job at Unyson Logistics on her way to graduating magna cum laude from UMSL with a BS and MA in economics this spring. (Photo by August Jennewein)

For the past seven years, Nicolette Seder has not been able to shake the feeling of being in near-constant motion.

Motherhood, a full-time job and pursuing two degrees will do that to you.

“I never take breaks. I don’t eat lunch,” Seder said. “No, just kidding. But sort of.”

She has to make sure her 7-year-old daughter, Skylar, gets to school by 7:35. Then it’s off to work at Unyson Logistics, where she serves as a senior continuous improvement analyst. Then to the campus of the University of Missouri–St. Louis, where she is finishing up a BS and MA in economics through a 2+3 program.

And she always makes sure she’s home in time to put Skylar to bed and read to her.

“There is a lot of rushing,” Seder said. “It can be difficult to balance, but I love all the things I’m doing. I love my daughter, I love my job and I love school. So it’s worth it.”

Seder is graduating from UMSL magna cum laude with her two degrees May 18, completing a chapter of her life that she started when she enrolled in community college straight out of high school nine years ago.

She got pregnant before the end of her first semester and took a semester off after Skylar was born. Seder returned to school and, shortly after, transferred into the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program.

After a couple of years, though, she realized her heart wasn’t in it. So she took a semester off to regroup.

“I hated not being in school,” Seder said. “I felt useless and like I wasn’t really going anywhere, so I came back and talked to my honors advisor, and he was like, ‘Well, what do you want to do?’ I was like, ‘I have no idea.’”

She liked math and science, so her advisor suggested she try economics. After she took a Principles of Macroeconomics course, her instructor, Max Gillman, Friedrich A. Hayek Professor in Economic History, told her she had a real knack for it.

Why fight the inevitable?

“Now everyone’s telling me I should do econ. I got into it, and I love it,” said Seder, who earned the Simon Kuznets Essay Award during her time at UMSL. “I kind of think about it as being like a fortune teller. You just observe everything that goes into making a decision. You ask for the data and input and use what someone gives you and say, ‘OK, well if you do this, based on all of these criteria you’re telling me, this is what will happen.’ It can apply to anything, any industry, anyone’s life, everyone’s life.”

Within just a few weeks of starting Department of Economics Chair Anne Winkler’s econometrics class, Seder made enough of an impact on Winkler that the professor suggested she apply for an internship at Unyson.

Seder landed the internship in December 2015 and, because of staffing shortages, was soon putting in the hours of a full-time employee. Once her internship ended, Unyson made her a full-time employee.

“She combines her job with raising a daughter and excels at our demanding joint BS/MA degree, and she does it all seemingly effortlessly,” Winkler said. “I never fail to be impressed by UMSL students. What Nicolette and other students like Nicolette accomplish is absolutely amazing.”

As a senior continuous improvement analyst, Seder works with Unyson’s account management team to keep the company’s customers satisfied with supply chain solutions. The account managers come to her with their clients’ data and ask her to figure out methods of making their service more efficient and cost-effective.

She looks into her crystal ball.

“Most of the decisions I’m making are where you have to think about the feedback effects: If I do this, how is it going to affect the rest of their network?” Seder said. “That’s all stuff I learned in econ.”

She has turned out to be a pretty shrewd continuous improvement analyst in her personal life as well, and she plans to keep it that way to serve as a model for Skylar.

“All the decisions I’ve ever made since I had her are basically about, ‘How is she going to see this? How is this going to affect her?’” Seder said. “Part of it is I hope she doesn’t have a child when she’s as young as I was and realizes how hard that was. But also that she learns perseverance and determination. If you want something, you can do it, no matter what the obstacles are.”


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