Roberto Paniagua at Google Offices
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Emily Archer

The 24 Tippie students who have won the UI’s Hancher-Finkbine Student Medallion or the Hancher-Finkbine Distinguished Student Leader Award have three things in common: they all excelled at learning, leadership, and loyalty during their time at the University of Iowa.

Whether that was starting a nonprofit or creating a student government, each winner was inspired to make their mark—and that didn’t stop after graduation. Meet three of Tippie’s alums who received one of the awards and who have continued to make an impact.

The Game Changer

While in college, Elise Runde Voss, BBA08, took her extracurricular activities seriously. It wasn’t just about tacking an experience on her resume, it was about gaining experience that she could actually use in the real world.

“I really wanted to make an impact,” she says.

And so she did—founding the Tippie Senate.

When Elise was a junior at Tippie, she got together with the assistant dean, the dean of the college at the time, William “Curt” Hunter, and Communications Director Barbara Thomas, who all saw the need for a student-run government body at Tippie.

Tippie Senate was created to be a board of students elected by Tippie students. The senate offers ideas and recommendations to the Undergraduate Program Office and the college to create the ideal environment for all students.

Elise remained heavily involved with Tippie Senate throughout her senior year, and creating the student org is still one of her proudest moments

“What I love about [Tippie Senate] is it’s still an organization within the business school today,” says Elise.

On top of that, Elise was involved in many other student organizations, including Delta Sigma Pi and Women in Business. She also was a peer mentor in the Frank Business Communication Center and a member of the Hawkinson Institute, an investment banking program that helps students prepare for the professional world of banking, sales and trading, and related sectors.

It all led up to winning the Hancher-Finkbine Medallion.

“It was by far one of my favorite memories in college.”

She has taken her success with her throughout her professional career as well, first in investment banking in New York after she graduated in 2008.

Her career has evolved from banking to entrepreneurship with the creation of UpScored, a company focused on helping employers and job-seekers find each other more easily.

The idea for the company developed when she and a couple of co-workers were given the task to create a team for a data management project. While looking for the perfect team members, they quickly discovered how broken the system was for both job-seekers and employers, so Elise and her co-workers created their own solution.

“My goal is to use UpScored as a vehicle to help people find jobs they love and help companies build great teams,” says Elise. “On both sides, it’s a win-win.”

Elise takes pride in being adaptable and enjoys learning new things.

“Something I’ve always embraced throughout my time at college and my professional career is my intellectual curiosity,” she says.

Elise has had to go through a lot of career changes, whether voluntarily or otherwise, but she continues to stay positive and enthusiastic about everything she does.

“What I’m passionate about over time has evolved, so I think right out of college it’s important to keep an open mind,” says Elise. “The world isn’t static, and we can’t really look at our careers as static.”

The Serial Social Entrepreneur

Andy Stoll, BBA03, came to Iowa to study film, but decided to get a BBA in business management to balance out his creative side. That’s where he got hooked on the idea that he wanted to change the world.

“Tippie was a really cool opportunity for me to study social entrepreneurship in some of my classes, and then apply some of those skills,” says Andy.

With the help of his professors at Tippie and some friends, he created

The James Gang, a nonprofit in Iowa City that combines service with creativity to form groups that help the community.

Andy and The James Gang created the 10,000 Hours Show, a project that rewards student volunteers with a free concert at the end of the school year. Andy helped with production and the design aspects of the event, working on branding, design, and video.

After gaining popularity, the group sold the idea to United Way Worldwide for $1. Today, the 10,000 Hours Show can be found on campuses across the United States.

“I didn’t get involved to win awards, or make my resume great, or to get jobs,” Andy says. “We were young people who wanted to do cool stuff in our community and to make a difference.”

However, all of his endeavors did get him the Hancher-Finkbine Student Medallion. Andy attributes winning the award to the university giving him the opportunity to be successful.

“I got to run a movie theater, I got to lead UISG, I got to start a nonprofit organization before I was 22,” he says.

Andy’s success didn’t stop after college either—after working for a few years to save up, he took a trip around the world where he lived in a Buddhist temple in Korea, appeared in a Bollywood movie, worked on a cattle ranch in Australia, and much more.

“I wanted to change the world, but I had absolutely no idea how it actually worked because I had never actually seen it.”

His goal was to go around the world in a year, but he ended up coming back four years later. During his time abroad, he visited 40 countries on five continents. He also met a lot of University of Iowa and Tippie alums, from Prague to Hong Kong.

Once he was stateside, he started his career as a serial social entrepreneur, helping start businesses and nonprofits that will help make a change in the world. The Iowa Startup Accelerator and Seed Here Studio are both “social good companies,” which are companies with social missions to help their communities. Seed Here works to help grow Iowa’s entrepreneurial community, while Iowa Startup Accelerator is working on growing more tech companies in Iowa, according to Stoll.

Andy has a lot of advice to anyone who wants to make an impact during their college career and beyond, but his biggest piece of advice is to simply ask the right question.

“College asks the wrong question of students, this perpetually frustrating question of ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” says Andy. “I’ve come to learn in my time since being at Tippie is that’s the wrong question to ask. The right question to ask is, ‘What problem do you want to solve in the world?’”

The Community Builder

When Roberto Paniagua, BBA10, came to college, he had some specific goals in mind: get a good education, make friends, and graduate in four years. As he learned more about the university and its community, his goals started to shift toward making a positive impact.

“I was raised understanding the value of hard work and the value of giving back. That was the roadmap that I used to think about how I would spend my time at Tippie and in my present role,” says Roberto.

So on top of studying economics and political science, Roberto went looking for the perfect program or student organization on campus that would allow him to not only gain new skills, but also one where he could leave a tangible impact. Tippie Build fit his requirements.

Tippie Build is an organization within the college that works with Habitat for Humanity to raise money and build a house for a family in need. The goal is to raise $50,000 for the home.

“It sounded like an interesting challenge, and something that I gravitated towards,” says Roberto.

He joined as a volunteer, but eventually moved up to running the fundraising efforts, developing events and coming up with new and exciting ones like a barbeque, a 5k race, and social events, to help get to that $50,000 goal.

He made such an impact on the community that he won the Hancher-Finkbine Medallion.

“It was never something that I aimed for,” Roberto says. “Winning the award for me was an affirmation that I had spent my time doing the right things.”

After graduating, Roberto hoped his unique experience at the University of Iowa would be enough to catch the eye of employers. He applied to Google on a whim, with no real connections except that he had a Gmail address.

“When I was filling out the application, I said, I’ve got nothing to lose by doing this.”

A week later he got a response from a recruiter, and a couple months later he landed his first job at Google in Chicago. He’s been at Google ever since, switching to different roles throughout the company.

“Having the flexibility to move around is really exciting, having the opportunity to hit reset and try to grow a different skill and work a different part of the business.”

Roberto also continues to work with his community, through a side project, to represent Google within Chicago’s West Loop Community Organization.

“They do really exciting things to help the community, the small businesses, and the people who live there.”

According to Roberto, the key to success is to always have a goal in mind, both in college and for young professionals just starting out.

“As a young professional, regardless of where you are, or what job you might get, your first job might not be the one you had dreamed of, but never lose sight of what your ultimate goal is and what impact you have.”