BBA 1985 (Accounting)
Chief Audit and Risk Officer, Alliant Energy, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
From Iowa farm boy to international businessman to local industry leader, Joel Schmidt has achieved professional and personal success since his education at The University of Iowa.
And as a member of the Department of Accounting's Professional Accounting Council, he hopes to show the University's current students all that's awaiting them after graduation day. As chief audit and risk officer with Alliant Energy in Cedar Rapids, Joel says he wants to open "others' eyes to the opportunities within our state."
The council is made up of distinguished accounting alumni and serves as a valuable resource for both department faculty and students. This important line of communication with industry professionals has allowed the department to develop curriculum that accurately reflects the needs of major accounting firms.
Students also benefit from direct access to role models, internship programs, and the career opportunities awaiting them after graduation.
Joel grew up on a farm in Jackson County outside Spragueville, Iowa. In 1985 he graduated from Iowa with a BBA in accounting. Joel started out as a senior staff accountant at Alliant Energy Corporation, a public utility holding company with operating revenues of $3.2 billion last year and total assets of more than $7.7 billion (year-end 2005). However, he soon realized that business development and leadership were his true interests.
Joel traveled extensively coordinating business development work and strategic analysis in South America, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. He graduated from The University of Iowa's evening MBA-PM program in 1998 and was named managing director, China Alliant Energy International.
Joel has been with Alliant for 18 years and has moved through multiple careers within the company. Although staying with one company for so long is rare, Joel says, "I've experienced many professional challenges and organizational changes within the company. From international business development to mergers, whenever I've wanted a change, the people at Alliant have provided it."
While no longer a public accountant, Joel is quick to point out what a solid foundation his accounting degree has given him.
"Accounting is the language of business and gives me the ability to converse with all disciplines within the industry," he says.
He also admits that he applies the thought processes and Professional Accounting Council problem-solving strategies of accounting to all aspects of his leadership responsibilities.
Joel sees his role on the Professional Accounting Council as a win-win situation for University students and his company. Alliant Energy, like many companies, is going to face a large amount of retirement in the next two decades, and the generation currently in school needs to fill these voids. Joel sees his connection with the University as a way to stay in touch with new graduates' needs and desires from the workplace.