Notes from Ken Brown, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs

Welcome to My Blog!

Ken Brown

Hello, my name is Ken Brown. I am the Associate Dean for the Undergraduate Program in the Henry B. Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa. This blog will share my thoughts on work and life. Feel free to use the comment feature to send your thoughts, questions, and feedback. Happy reading and go Hawks!

Who are you going to cheer for?

The day it was announced that University of Maryland was joining the Big Ten was the day that four phases of my life began to come together.

First, I grew up in Maryland (where my father still lives) and attended many camps and events on campus while growing up. My childhood memories include many moments on the Maryland campus.

Second, I attended as an undergraduate. My five (yes, five) years there were truly transformative. I did everything I could to get the most from the experience: (1) research with a faculty member, (2) an honors thesis, (3) an internship, (4) study abroad, and (5) student organization leadership experiences. I love that institution for the opportunities it provided me. Part of me will always be a Terp.

Third, I met my wife there, and we were married in the Memorial Chapel on campus, a beautiful building overlooking the famous Fraternity Row.

But for the last 16 years, I’ve built a life here in Iowa City and come to love the University of Iowa. I have learned so much working here and made more lifelong friends than I ever thought possible. And now my kids are building childhood memories here on our beautiful campus. I am now a Hawkeye.

These four phases of my life — childhood, college, early adult, and now “mature-adult” life — all came crashing together this weekend. Iowa played Maryland for their homecoming game, and I flew in to visit family, friends, and past mentors at the University.

The most common question I heard all weekend was, “Who are you going to cheer for?” It’s a fair question. How should I reconcile different parts of my life? As you can tell from my short description of how I spent my time at Maryland, I don’t like to chose one thing over another. I like to do as much as I can.

So my solution was simple — I wore a Hawkeye jacket and a Maryland alumni shirt. I cheered for every good play, no matter whose it was. I was sad to see the Hawkeyes lose but happy to know that Maryland is not completely out of its league in the Big Ten. That is, of course, until February 6, when Iowa wrestles Maryland. Then the Terps will be out-classed, out-hustled, and demoralized.

In the meantime, I was happy to spend this weekend cheering on two great public universities and spending time with friends, old and new!


Feeling old and energized by homecoming

With homecoming weekend, I had the opportunity to catch up with alumni who came by TCOB for a Friday BBQ. At the risk of leaving out someone I talked to, I wanted to highlight a few conversations. First, I had breakfast with Corey Collins, former YAPA Founder and BSAO member (among other activities). He is loving his new job at Insight Global in Chicago and doing really well. Second, I met up with Laura Westercamp (briefly) because she was here for the JPEC Advisory Board. She is loving her job at Accenture, particularly the opportunity to work with a client in Switzerland. I also saw her sister, Jeralyn, who is a Tippie grad but pursuing her MHA still at Iowa, so I don’t count her as an official alumna yet. Both are loving life and say great things about how their undergraduate experiences prepared them for their current work. Finally, I saw Aaron Rogers, who was one of the very first honors students that I supervised. He looks great and is working as a trial lawyer in the Attorney General’s office Des Moines, and is in fact, heading into court this coming Thursday on a big case. It was so great to see him as we talked and walked to the parade together. But I left feeling a bit old because Aaron wasn’t just in town to visit his TCOB family. He was in town for his 10-year law school reunion! So he has been a member of the bar for 10 years now, which I think qualifies him as an experienced professional. He still looks young to me!

What a great weekend. I left the BBQ energized, and was excited to see the Hawks get a football win over Indiana, too. Seems like Hawkeyes are winning all over the place!

Carnations and Notes

I am so proud of our student leaders on campus, particularly Ruoting Wang (President of Chinese in Iowa City and double BAIS and Marketing major) and Fang Yuang (Tippie Senator and Marketing major). Along with other student leaders and advisers here in Tippie, they planned and held an event called “Carnations & Notes” yesterday.


Pasted below is the note that I sent to all faculty and students about the event. We had very positive feedback about the event.


Throughout the day Wednesday, October 8, students will be in PBB distributing white carnations along with a note about mental health resources. This event was initiated and is sponsored by a coalition of student leaders who were heartbroken by recent events around the University and Iowa City. These students want to send a simple message that our community cares about each and everyone of you.

Please feel free to take a flower and keep it or share it as you see fit. The resources listed include information about the Crisis Center, which offers anytime chat lines in both English and Chinese.

It is fitting that this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. As the National Alliance on Mental Illness notes, this is a “…time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of tens of millions….”


State rock

Did you know that the state rock in Iowa is the geode? What I find interesting about the geode is that it looks unassuming and plain on the outside, but inside its stunning. Looks can be deceiving, right?

I was reminded of this when I had dinner with 2 great friends (Rich McCarty and Dave Gould) in Las Vegas last weekend. Rich is a semi-retired Tippie professor who continues to teach online for us. Via his on-line videos he looks really sophisticated with this shirt and tie and professional backdrop. It makes you think that he is back to being an executive, working in a C-Suite somewhere. But looks are deceiving. Rich gave me permission to share his secret. He is working in his home office in Vegas, wearing shorts. He is about 10 yards from his kitchen and 30 yards from the swimming pool. This is a man who knows how to live life!

rich computer fixed rich full fixed

I was so happy to catch up with Dave and Rich while I was in Vegas for a conference. Great guys, doing great work, and supporting Tippie students and Tippie alums the whole time. I can’t wait to see them both again soon.

Learning even more!

Back on August 13 I wrote a few short “lessons learned” about staff as I did one-on-one meetings. I do not want to leave anyone out (especially those who would prefer to be left out). Returning to that post, I want to give short “lessons learned” about the remaining UPO staff. Last time I noted things I’d learned about Rachael Kowbel, Mike Schluckebier, Pam Bourjaily, Maureen Beran, Brooke Paulsen, and Deone Pedersen. Here are the rest of the crew:

Brandelle Unkrich was a Tippie student year ago, and I was so excited when she came back to work for us. As a student, she was an outstanding role model — working hard as a student, student leader, and employee.
Shari Piekarski has worked in UPO for over 20 years. In a recent meeting she said, “everyone already knows everything about me.” I beg to differ. She is the quiet, behind the scenes source of energy and inspiration for the office, and many don’t know how hard she works day in and day out.
Susan Felker has worked in UPO for 15 years and does our admissions and recruiting work, which is quickly becoming central to our mission. She and her husband (Kevin, who also works here) are great people and neighbors. But their son goes to Iowa State. I suppose not everyone can be perfect.
Melissa Baker is an Associate Director in our office, and a fun and fitness fanatic. She works hard and plays hard, and no where does that show more when you see pictures of her running a marathon. Isn’t that supposed to be a miserable experience? Why is she smiling?
Jennifer Blair coordinates our efforts to connect international and domestic students. This is fitting because she has lived and worked in Ireland!
Matt Edwards is the fastest talker in the office, and has more energy than anyone I’ve ever met. I just heard him present at a retreat to an audience of ~150 and he gave a powerful, well-structured summary of his group’s discussion in 90 seconds. If you ever need someone to give a powerful and efficient talk, Matt should be your first call.
Vicki Vavra is an advisor extraordinaire. She is always meeting and helping students, and can connect easily with those who come from small towns and farms. Ask her about her tractor!
Mark Archibald worked at Loyola University Chicago and brought many great ideas from there to improve our advising and teaching practices. He coordinates the Direct Admit seminar, which helps our first year students connect with their adviser and the school.

We actually have new hires, too! Stephanie Grebe is moving over from our CIMBA office. She will help us coordinate global internships and even though she only technically started last week, she has already done amazing research and is learning fast. She is bringing passion for international experience and expertise in recruiting to the table, and is already poised to  help us grow these programs.

Colleen Opal is our other new staff member. Although she has not technically started work, she has already moved from Chicago, settled into her apartment, and set up her office. She used to work with Mark at Loyola, and has lots of experience working with first and second year students, which is where we will have growth over the next few years. She will be invaluable for helping us manage that growth effectively. She also has a graduate degree from Michigan State, which shows just how brilliant she is, not that I am biased.

UPO is a collection of truly unique and impressive individuals. I am honored to work with every single one of them.

Being courageous!

I was so inspired by the Tippie Global Buddies on Friday. I spent a few minutes chatting with them and chowing down free food (thank for the egg roll, Jennifer!). I wish I could have stayed longer, but family responsibilities called.

Have you heard about this program? We have nearly 200 Tippie students who are paired up — domestic and international students — to learn and help each other. These students are generous and courageous. They are generous because they are taking time to help each other, and they are courageous because volunteering to meet someone completely new can be scary. Overcoming that moment of fear is what courage is all about. These students are great role models for all of us!

For more information on Global Buddies, read the newspaper article and check out the Twitter posts with #TippieBuddies. If you want to help, applications are already open for the spring semester: (use the “Click Here to Apply” button on the right)

Getting help?

Its the time of semester when the first quizzes and exams pop up, and students may realize “all is not well.”

From my own time taking classes, it was sometimes difficult to know exactly where I stood. Sometimes I overestimated how much I had understood the material. And a bad grade was a wake up call.

So what did I do when the bad news came? What should anyone do when they fail? Some great quotes speak to this:

It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. – Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday. – Wilma Rudolph (Olympic athlete, fastest woman in the world in the 1960′s)

Here in Tippie, there are many places to seek help so you can learn the lessons of failure and get the boost you need to keep going. You could go to Youtube for instructional videos ( is one example for an important but mundane task) but I suggest that your peers (taking the same class), the TA, the instructor, and your adviser are your best bets. Reach out — they want to help! And then there are alumni, like the ones pictured here who were just here for the Young Alumni Board meeting (this subset representing Aegon, Edelman, Principal Financial, and Accenture).


You can get some great advice about how to succeed here at Tippie and beyond from alumni. How could you get in touch with an alum? If you’d like a alum mentor, shoot me an email ( We are exploring ways to connect current students with our alums!

Best resource for undergraduates?

What is the best resource for undergraduates to get good advice, tips, and “nuggets of knowledge” that can result in an internship, job offer, or transformative personal insight? Your parents? Your Tippie adviser? A Career Center counselor? Your professors? Each one plays an important role but I think the best resource is young alumni–professionals who were just in school and have made the successful transition into work roles.

Why are they so helpful? It’s quite simply really. First, they understand YOU because they are close to your age and have similar backgrounds and experiences. Second, they understand how to succeed in the transition from school to career because they just did it.

And in this vein, if you are an undergraduate student on campus today, you are in luck. We have our Young Alumni Board (YAB) in town today, and they will be hosting group discussions on their (and your) majors. All events are in the PBB from 2:30-3:30, and there is a reception after. I strongly encourage you to drop in for great advice. When you have a resource this valuable, you should take advantage of it. See you later this afternoon!

Accounting (C125)

BAIS (S121)

Economics (W181)

Finance (W107)

Management (S207)

Marketing (W207).

A reception with board members follows at 3:30 in the Howe Galleria.

Ken Brown has been teaching at the University of Iowa since 1998. Despite being born in Texas and growing up in Maryland, Ken is almost an Iowa native. His parents met here in graduate school back in the 1960's, and married soon thereafter. Without the fantastic programs here at the University to lure people from all over, Ken wouldn't be here today. Or be anywhere for that matter. View Ken's Tippie profile.