Already well-positioned within the University of Iowa, Spencer Stumpf looked to the Iowa MBA to open more doors and give him the option to advance into his dream HR role.
Pivot from boxed-in to big opportunities
Already a part of the University of Iowa’s staff, Spencer Stumpf was well-positioned to advance his career. Yet every new opportunity he considered asked for the same 3 letters: MBA.
“Seeing job postings that said, 'master’s degree required,' I knew the Iowa MBA was the best way for my skills to get recognized."
Is an advanced degree for me?
Uncertain if he had what it takes to earn a master’s, Spencer thought all the way back to his Tippie undergraduate experience for inspiration.
“In my Organizational Behavior class, I kept bugging my professor,” he says. “I was interested in the material because it merged what I like—business and people. Eventually my professor asked, ‘Have you ever thought about becoming an academic?’”
“That was a light bulb moment for me—having someone else see that I could go further.”
Several years into his career, after completing his BBA in Management with an HR track, Spencer knew he needed an MBA to take him where he wanted to go.
“There’s a lot of HR that isn’t my thing—FMLA, ADA, payroll. I wanted to focus on the big picture,” he explains. “I was interested in answering questions like, ‘What if our hiring was better, what would that do? Why do bad cultures persist and how do we improve them?’”
Finding his groove
To get into the swing of being a student again, Spencer first pursued a certificate in project management. “It helped to dip my toe in and realize that I could do these classes,” he admits.
After completing his certificate, he began the Iowa MBA, and found it easier than expected to balance his full-time job, family, and hobbies.
“I quickly learned not to take more than 2 classes at a time. You’ve got your whole life going on,” he says.
Gaining support from the people around him was also critical to his success.
“Communicating with my supervisor and my spouse was so important to how I planned my work,” he explains. “It all integrated into my life really well, and I didn’t have to take a break from classes.”
Opening up to online options
While he attended most of his classes in person, Spencer found unexpected value in the virtual learning he did pursue. He was especially impressed with his Business Communications course—and uses the tools he learned to this day.
“The instructor would often tell us: 'You’re going to be using Zoom for a while, so you should learn how to frame yourself up, and speak with your hands.'"
The advice came at the perfect time, as the pandemic ushered in remote connections via virtual trainings and staff meetings.
“As the world quickly transitioned to remote work, and my job is more online, my online classes gave me a model for how this looks when it’s done really well.”
Continuing the Iowa connection
Armed with his Iowa MBA, Spencer has found a position where he can live out his goals of evolving leaders and making work better for everyone. Post-graduation, he’s landed in his next phase as a Supervisory Excellence Trainer in Learning and Development at University of Iowa Human Resources. He continues to leverage connections he made in the program.
“Because we’re lucky enough to have the experts from Tippie right here on campus, I have people I’ve built a relationship with that I can reach out and directly ask ‘What’s your experience with this topic?’ or ‘Can you jump in on a video with us?’" he says.
Those lasting connections make a real impact on how he succeeds in his role.
“When dealing with change, solutions from the outside are often questioned—but when you can bring in someone who's an expert in their field from just three blocks away, it provides an air of legitimacy to our recommendations.”