graphic from cover of winter Tippie Magazine
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Ruth Paarmann and Lesanne B. Fliehler

“A company is only as good as the people it keeps.”—Mary Kay Ash

Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics had it right, and so does the Tippie College of Business: the college surrounds itself with great students who graduate, become Tippie alumni, and stay connected with the college in some way.

There are so many Tippie alumni who are keeping the college in their sights, whether it’s by returning to campus to speak with current students about career opportunities, giving financially to the college, mentoring students, serving on advisory boards, or providing internships and job opportunities to students.

“Our programs and students succeed because we have outstanding alumni. They are crucial to our success,” says Sarah Fisher Gardial, dean of the Tippie College.

This cover story from the winter 2018-19 issue of Tippie Magazine showcases how alumni are carrying on the tradition of giving back to their alma mater by mentoring students, returning for speaking engagements throughout the year, and even contributing to the research endeavors of Tippie faculty members and graduate students.

Championing Women in Finance

Two Tippie Alumnae at the Top of Their Field Support and Mentor Young Women Pursuing Degrees in Finance

In the Tippie College of Business, women comprise half of accounting majors, but only 30 percent of finance majors. Statistics show a fair number of women work in the industry, but only 15% of finance executives are women, and the ratio of women in finance programs has not significantly increased since 1982, when Cathy Zaharis, BBA82, director of Professional/Employer Development in the Department of Finance, graduated from the UI with an undergraduate degree in finance.

This low statistic sparked a conversation between Zaharis and her high school friend, former co-worker, and fellow finance graduate, Barb McKenzie, BBA82, who now serves as senior executive director of investments for Principal Global Investors. How could the Tippie College and Principal more effectively support young women who have an interest in finance careers?

Principal is an industry leader when it comes to employing and promoting women. In July, Forbes magazine placed Principal #1 on its list of “America’s Best Employers for Women 2018.” In addition to providing opportunities for women at all levels, the company also sponsors scholarships and other programs to encourage more diverse individuals to consider finance and investment careers.

“History has shown us that there are fewer women studying finance than accounting and management,” McKenzie says. “This new program was a collaborative way, in partnership with Tippie, to try something different to help provide women additional consideration of financial services careers.”

Zaharis and McKenzie agreed that the time was right to reach out and show young women how they can fit into the male-dominated field.

“Women haven’t seen other women in these types of roles,” Zaharis says. “The college’s female students have asked, ‘Do I belong in the finance field?’”

Zaharis followed Dean Sarah Gardial’s philosophy of “You can’t be what you haven’t seen.” Rather than just providing a scholarship, Zaharis wanted to get female students’ questions answered by connecting them to real people. The logical next step was to develop a combined mentoring/scholarship program.

“The whole finance industry realizes that we need more than a welcome—we need advocacy and outreach. We need to put our hand out first to support gender diversity,” says Zaharis.

“Supporting women majoring in finance is very compatible with who and what Principal stands for as an organization. We’re a diverse global firm, and it takes all types of people to run it well,” McKenzie says. “Women bring a diverse viewpoint to the table. When looking for great investment ideas, the diversity of thought processes is always welcome.”

McKenzie volunteered herself as a mentor, and four female finance majors were selected in spring 2018 to receive $2,500 each. Three have double majors, which reflects their diverse interests: Maeve McGonigal is a finance and flute performance major from California who founded InvestHer, a new student group at Tippie for women in finance. Sarah Tabor, an economics and finance double major, serves as a teaching assistant for Introductory Financial Management, a campus tour guide, and a financial analytics intern for HNI. Callarisse Trueblood is pursuing a double major in finance and computer science. Regan Wasson is a finance major on track to graduate in three years.

In August, the four women were invited to spend a day on Principal’s corporate campus in Des Moines. Due to a flight cancellation, Maeve was unable to attend, but Callarisse, Regan, and Sarah took a tour of Principal’s facilities before having lunch with three other Tippie alumni. The networking with young professionals provided valuable insight to the students.

“It was interesting to hear about the different aspects of their work in equity, fixed income and real estate,” says Tabor, who hails from Baldwin, Iowa. “It helped me think about whether I’d want to intern or work there and what opportunities I would have in finance if I did.”

The three met with McKenzie after lunch to get to know each other. They addressed a variety of relevant professional development topics.

“We talked about how oftentimes, in life, you learn through trial and error, and from observing others to see what works and what doesn’t,” McKenzie says. “We also addressed how to add meaningful insights to discussions, how to find your voice, and how useful it can be to reflect on how you handled things so you can learn to do better next time.”

“Barb was inspiring. She’s very kind, funny, intelligent, and successful,” says Tabor. “It’s encouraging to see a higher up in an organization willing to help young professionals. That’s the kind of person Barb is, and she represents the company culture at Principal.”

The visit also helped her envision what it would be like to work on a company campus with an open work environment that encourages interaction and collaboration. She is looking forward to future interactions with McKenzie to address events that affect global markets, who to connect with, and general advice.

“As a woman, it’s nice to have women in your field to answer questions and make you feel like you should be there,” Tabor adds.

As for the future, McKenzie will offer more mentoring via email and during visits to Iowa City, where she serves on the UI Center for Advancement board of directors. She anticipates discussing real-world finance topics, global events, networking, and more with the students.

“For these young women, I hope they come through with a vision of being a successful player in the financial industry. I hope they gain confidence, connectivity, and a vision for themselves in these types of roles,” McKenzie says.

Zaharis loves to see the anticipation and activity build around the advancement of women in finance.

“It’s exciting to see an energy around it coming from young women, and now, employers are seeing that the best candidates for positions in financial services are often women.”


Who You Gonna Call?

MBA Alum Supports Grad Student’s Research

When graduate student Jordan Nielsen began to hash out an idea for his dissertation topic, he knew it might be difficult to find subjects willing to take a survey—especially one that had to be completed twice a day for 10 workdays in a row.

His dissertation advisor, Amy Colbert, professor of management and entrepreneurship and the Leonard A. Hadley Chair in Leadership, knew just who to call—Beverly Hutney, MBA14, who she’d taught in the Executive MBA Program several years before.

“I had taken an organizational behavior course with Amy, and I casually mentioned to her that if she ever wanted to do a research project, to let me know,” says Hutney, chief operating officer with the Stelter Company of Des Moines. “We jumped at the chance to work with the college on research.”

The core business of the Stelter Company centers on motivating people to make donations to nonprofits, especially in the area of estate planning. One aspect of Hutney’s role as COO is to make sure the company provides a stable, healthy, and satisfying work environment for its 100 employees. That meshed perfectly with Nielsen’s research topic: to find out how emotional experiences during the work day influence the ability to perceive meaning in the work.

“It’s fair to say that most people who work for us are attracted to the company because of the kind of work we do—raising money for nonprofits, which is meaningful in itself,” Hutney says.

About half of Stelter’s employees participated in the survey, which they completed at the beginning and at the end of their work day. Questions explored what happened during the day, what changed during today in their feelings about work, and what was the effect of that on their work.

Nielsen’s research looked at changes in emotion, but it didn’t look at the specific things that caused the changes—it could have been interactions with a co-worker, leader, or a client, or even how work spilled over into home lives.

“There are many different kinds of events or experiences that can cause our mood to change,” Jordan says. “Our research suggests that any one of these events could help or hinder people’s ability to see the impact of their work in the big scheme of things. Being treated poorly by a co-worker may, for example, make you frustrated and upset, which keeps you from remembering (at least temporarily) why your work really matters, and why you’re doing it.”

After analyzing the results, Nielsen could see the way a change in emotions affected the level of significance that the employee had about their work for that day. More importantly, he says, that change ended up shaping the extent to which they helped their co-workers and the extent to which they withdrew from their work.

“If the employee got more excited or interested over the work day, it’s easier for him or her to think that the work is significant, at least for that day,” Nielsen says. “Whereas with negative emotions, it’s the opposite. If you see a decrease in being frustrated or disappointed, that helps employees see the bigger picture. In turn, the employees stays motivated, which helps them perform better.”

Hutney and the company were very interested in the results. They were pleased to know that their employees had an above-average work satisfaction and overall engagement.

“But the surprising piece of information we learned was this: if you were an employee who had a lot of work and were working hard, that wasn’t a factor in whether you had job satisfaction or not,” she says. “If you couldn’t see progress in your work — if you hit a brick wall day after day—that’s what defeated people. We learned we had to find ways for employees to get quick wins or to see progress.”

Nielsen says Hutney was a great resource during the research period. She and the HR director reminded and encouraged the employees to participate during huddles and breaks when employees are recharging during the day. As a result, Nielsen says, “We got good data and information to learn from.”

“As management researchers, we’re working in an applied field, so we’re hoping to provide value for others, but it really does go both ways,” he says. “This was a great partnership with Stelter, so we learned from them and can communicate these findings to other organizations.”

“Part of the significance of this research is that potentially anything that affects your mood may influence your ability to see the meaning of your work, and that will affect your motivation and performance,” says Jordan, who recently accepted an assistant professor position at Purdue.

The research results became Nielsen’s third-year paper, which is like a mini-dissertation, he says, and which prepared him for work toward his final dissertation. He also presented the paper at an Academy of Management conference with Ph.D. students from Yale, Brigham Young University, and Boston College, whose research had examined the meaning of work in some way.

The following are additional research and other project opportunities with Tippie alumni:

  • John Solow, professor of economics and the Justice International Business Research Fellow, has conducted ongoing research with Anthony Krautmann, BA80, MA84, PhD85, who is a professor of economics at DePaul University. Their research investigates aspects of wage determination in professional sports, especially major league baseball. The results have been published in the Journal of Sports Economics and Contemporary Economic Policy, among others.
  • Students in the Marketing Institute are working with Green Golf Partners and its marketing manager, Dylan Diewold, BBA15, to increase participation in the game of golf (and the amenities offered at golf courses) among Gen Z and Millennials. The company is one of the largest golf course management companies in the United States.
  • Jane Simpson, MBA18, and Talha Naushad, MBA18, participated in experiential learning analytics projects with Kum & Go and Principal representatives while enrolled in the Full-time MBA Program. After graduation in the spring, they were both hired into full-time positions with Kum & Go (Jane) and Principal (Talha), and today they continue working on real-world analytics projects with current MBA students.
  • Ying Yang, assistant professor of marketing, partnered with Nick McCollum, BBA10, at C.H. Robinson and Nicole Johnston, BBA94, with Kimberly Clark Corporation to learn more about motivating a younger generation of salespeople to work more effectively.
  • Ramji Balakrishnan, professor of Accounting and C. Woody Thompson Professor, works with Dr. Alan Reed, EMBA14, from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to apply time-based costing systems to estimate the costs of orthopedic procedures.
  • Business analytics students worked with Micah Hobart, MBA97, vice president and chief operating officer at Paperless Transaction Corporation, to help develop the next generation of fraud detection technology to help nonprofit organizations stop fraud perpetrated through their online giving portals.
  • Philip Jones, professor of business analytics and the Clement T. and Sylvia H. Hanson Family Chair in Manufacturing Productivity, worked with Greg Kegler, MBA96, from Syngenta that looked at improved methods for coordinating supply chain planning for seed corn production. The research appeared in several journals and was an honorable mention in the INFORMS Edelman Prize competition.

Be Part of Our Success

When we say alumni are involved with the college, we really mean it—and we have the numbers to prove it. More than 200 alumni returned to the college during the first three months of the 2018 fall semester as members of advisory boards, in-class and virtual online speakers, members of panel discussions at student organization meetings, mentors, and job and internship recruiters for their companies.… And these are just the returning alumni we knew about before Tippie Magazine headed to press!

As members of collegiate advisory boards, alumni are helping the college improve and refine its programs. September’s meeting of the Tippie Advisory Board (TAB) included a World Café, where TAB members shared information about trends that have the largest potential to alter their businesses in the next 10 years and the skill sets that they will expect new hires to have in the near future.

Our advisory board members know the importance of supporting the college and its students—Michael Ferguson, MBA95, senior manager, End to End Infrastructure Planning at Philips and one of Tippie’s School of Management Advisory Council members, was instrumental in the hiring of two Tippie MBA graduates. When the two weren’t hired at another unit in the company, he created two new positions for them on his team.

Alumni on the Professional Accounting Council represent public accounting, private industry, academia, government, and not-for-profit sections. Their valuable expertise added insight into recent discussions of the draft report for AACSB accreditation review of the department, which happens every five years.

Individual alumni often find themselves returning time and again to speak in classes, to serve as mentors to members of Tippie student organizations, and to help Tippie students gain employment upon graduation. For several years, Chuck Long, BBA85, former Iowa Hawkeye quarterback who is now CEO and executive director of the Iowa Sports Foundation, has visited the college to offer his tips for business success, and Jeff Roseman, MBA94, often returns to talk about building resilient careers in technology and analytics by utilizing skills learned in the Business Process Analysis course for business analytics majors.

The college’s alumni network is strong, growing, and an important part of the college’s success. Let the college know how you’d like to reconnect with your alma mater to best share your time, talents, and treasure. Write to us at, and let’s get connected.