Rob Rouwenhorst’s Journey to the Tippie Top

The name, Rob Rouwenhorst, is far from new news around Tippie. However, he does have a new title as Associate Professor of Instruction this year. I sat down with Rob to learn more about his work and what it is about Tippie that keeps him coming back. Rob has quite the interesting story and I think everyone could learn a little bit from his experience. Without further introduction, Rob Rouwenhorst!


Could you start by telling me a little about yourself? 

I was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Of note, I started up a computer company in the late 90’s with my best friend since the 2nd grade, called ComputeTHIS. That went gangbusters. So many stories there which we don’t need to get into. VCs that had taken Gateway public had talked to us about taking us public. Russian hackers broke into our servers. Got a ‘Cease and Desist’ and threatened lawsuit from Sony.  

Best story though is one of our accountants embezzled all of our money. We found out about it when he got a charge on delivery, a carton of cigars for $1200. I guess, hfilled out the shipping wrong, so it got sent to the office instead of his office. I mean $1200 even today would be a lot, but back in the late 90’s that was even more. So then we came to find out that our accountant had embezzled all our money.  

Then Jerry and I, it was a big decision of what to do, do we take the money we paid ourselves and invest it in the firm and come out swinging again? Or do we just part wayssay that was fun”, and move on to the next thing? We decided on the latter.  

Then I went to the University of Iowa and majored in Computer Science. My senior year I took a class in Marketing with Dave Collins. He was very good. I had the privilege of later on I’d be his head TA. I worked with him for years, watched that guy in the classroom, saw him outside of the classroom. I mean, he and I are friends now. He taught me so much, he was one of my chief mentors.  

So I was interested in Marketing now. I was a senior and I was like I could keep going for another 2 years of undergrad or I could get my MBA. I chose MBA. Normally, they don’t let in people straight out of undergrad, but I told them the whole computer story and they were like ‘okay, good 

Then orientation week, they were hiring for a TA and I got hired on with Irwin Lebin. He’s probably one of the most prolific researchers at Tippie. The guy is retired now and will still come out with half a dozen papers per year. So, Irwin hired me and he said, ‘I want you to interact with the class,’ and I had no idea what that meant because if you were a TA, you were either a grader or you led your own discussion section 

I was going to class with him every day; second week of class he asked me, “Rob, what’s your opinion on this?” I stood up and I started talking, and that was my calling in life moment. The energy return I felt from students was such that I knew I needed to do this the rest of my life. That was when I was 23.  

I’m very fortunate, you know, there’s this cliche that if you know what you want to do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I was so singular on this mission of helping other people become better versions of themselves that now this is all just play for me. The fact that I got that at 23… I realize how fortunate I am. 

What is it about Tippie that has been so appealing to you in furthering your career? 

Well, I came back, but I never really left. It’s a weird deal. Tippie was very nice to me. I came out into the job market in ‘08; ‘08 was not a good year. They had set aside money to start something known as the Marketing Institute. So they said, ‘hey, would you like a crack at this?’. So I helped start the Marketing Institute with several people. I was the director before Peggy, so I did that for about 4 years.  

Then St. Ambrose University in Davenport reached out and told me that they had this tenure track position, and they wanted me to come out. So I went there and did that. I was there 7 years then Iowa reached out and asked if I would be interested in coming back.  

The thing that brought me back and the reason why I love this place is just the people. Fabulous faculty and Marketing Department, staff, like Michelle Highly, are awesome. The dean had a vision for engaging with the community. I’ve always been a huge proponent of experiential learning because Marketing is tied to that. Experiential learning and getting students involved with real-world problems and companies, not only helps those clients, but also helps students sell themselves later when they’re looking for an internship or job. It’s a lot more valuable for everybody if we can get students engaged with the community at large.  

Can you tell me about your research and teaching interests and why you think they’re important to understand? 

My teaching interests are basically teaching effectiveness in higher ed. I’ve done things like clickers in the classroom, looking at flipped classrooms in terms of just changing the model, banning electronics in the classroom. Which how much greater than using clickers in the classroom to banning electronics can you get? I’m constantly questioning, you have to question yourself and you have to question the assumptions that everyone has.  

My current research is related to banning electronics in the classroom, which now with COVID, that’s a weird paper to submit. Now, I’m really doubling down on healthy habits, trying to get students to think beyond just marketingbeyond the domain. Think about how they can better themselves and having, hopefully, a growth mindset that they can improve intellectually, physically, emotionally. My refrain is being better versions of themselves and constantly improving. I think now more than ever that hits home. It’s very easy, in terms of not only in our culture, of just complaining, but also the pandemic and everything going on. It’s very easy to look at the negative side of things, but if you step back, there’s 7 billion people on the planet, so as long as you’re not dead last on the list, you’re okay. I think we’ve got to focus in on the positive and help students know that they can constantly and always change.  

Circumstances are a bit strange this semester, so how have you changed your goals for student outcomes? How are you staying flexible with all the changes? 

The outcomes don’t change, but the message and tools I use are flexible. I’ve always been interested in technology, given my background. So, way back in 2011, when we first started discussing online education and online BBA, I was coming out with content in classesI’m always interested in what’s the next channel and how can I use these tools that society is going to, in some cases, quickly adopt? The outcomes haven’t changed, the method and structure has.  

It’s interesting to me because Id take a week’s worth of content, which is 3 hours, and if I take that lecture and just do a video of it, which was my old method, I’ve only got about 45 minutes now. That freaked me out because I was like I’ve got 2 hours of discussion normally and now I don’t have that. The last few years, I’ve thought that 45 minutes is too long in an online environment. I mean if it’s a Ted Talk, that’s something that you’ve really honed and mastered, and you can maybe, maybe capture people’s attention for 16 minutes. So, I’m shortening the videos; I’m creating more content, but shorter duration. Certainly, Zoom is something that’s intriguing with breakout rooms and discussion boards, so I’m just trying to take advantage of all these different tools that we have available to us.  

What has been the most difficult part of planning for this semester?  

My kids. I’ve got 4 kids. I’ve got two boys, 13 and 11, and two girls, 9 and 5. That’s been the most difficult thing because the school system is changing and the options they give. So my kids are here and I’m trying to entertain them and trying to work.   

How have you then adjusted the format of your classes? 

I have gone into it thinking, and this is terms to taking advantage of different tools as opposed to just set in stone, I’ve got to be flexible. I’m taking advantage of the tools that I have to make sure that the live class has the ability to go online. Plus, those that have COVID or have worries, they’ve got an alternative to the live class. There’s discussion boards they can use and videos they can watch. It’s more work, but it’s worth it in the end when you’re trying to create the best learning environment for students. That’s where I get a lot of pleasure actually, trying to create the best environmenthelp students be better versions of themselves and then constantly questioning how can I accomplish that goal. The fact that I’m able to take advantage of technology and always push to be ahead of that curve means that when we switched to online in Spring, I already had videos from the online section of the class 

What has been your favorite thing about Iowa/ the University of Iowa/ Tippie? 

That’s a tough one because it depends on my viewpoint! Friday after class is very fun when you’re a student. It certainly has changed with time and with my perspective with going through the family lifecycle. I think that’s what I value about Iowa City. Regardless of your age, the opportunities and things for you to do, see, and experience, are some of the best in the state. So I’d have a different answer when I was a student. I’d have a different answer when I got married, now that I’m faculty and have kids. There’s lots of cool stuff.  

When I was a grad student, the equivalent of Film Scene, played movies I thought were really cool. The different things they put on at Hancher, even the Main Library will bring in really quality speakers or comedians, lots of cool performances at the Englert. It’s a really cool place regardless of your age or where you are in the family lifecycle.  

What do you hope to gain from your experienceWhat are you most looking forward to this year? 

There’s this old cliché of a wooden vessel or an old sailing ship, if you replace all the boards is it still the same ship? When I left and now coming back, I feel like everything has been replaced and I feel like a new person. Hopefully, better. What I value has changed. So, the reason I left back in 2013 was because tenure was so appealing. It was this special deal in terms of being an academic, it’s this reward you get for years of hard research and service. So, I had the nicest office at St. Ambrose University and then you get tenure, and in my experience and depending who you talk to it probably varies, but my experience was that it was very anti-climactic. There’s no parade, there’s no ceremony. You get a letter and it says congratulations and I was like, “that’s all there is?”. I went there for that, but I found it unfulfilling.  

The thing that fills my cup and makes me get up super excited every day is helping as many people as I can be better versions of themselves. My metric has completely shifted to that. That was one of the appealing things about coming back. If that’s my metric and that’s my personal mission, then being able to be exposed to and hopefully influence students is very powerful.  

It’s very easy to focus on the negative. I’ve got all these students who are either freaked out to come to class or who have been exposed and can’t come to class, so it’s like what can I say? I think helping students be better every day, help them see the positive light in all of this, help them get jobs and internships – that’s the positive angle for me. In terms of improving, this has forced all of us to use technology, whether we want to or notI actually like technology, so I’m not scared by it, but it’s different. You have to adapt with the timesyou have to learn it, master it, and figure it out, so that’s appealing to me. I look forward to working through that and hopefully, being a better instructor because of it.

Favorite quarantine activities/ hobbies? 

Personal fitness has become a huge deal for me. 7 years ago I was way overweight, so I started swimming and lost a lot of weight, so then I started looking at my diet. Now, I’ll do cardio for about 30 minutes, I’ll go weight training for about an hour, my diet is pretty specific, and my Apple Watch tells me my resting heartbeat is 38 beats per minute. What’s changed in terms of quarantine is since the pool’s closed, I’ve picked up running.  

Also, lots of family time. More watching movies with the kids at night, more going on bike rides with the kids. We also got a dog on March 6th! We had been searching for a dog for a year and we had really specific requirements because we have 4 kids and an elderly cat whose 15 years old, so we needed a dog that could get along with the kids and the cat. I was like Goldilocks, I didn’t want anything too big or too small. The dog has been incredibly awesome!  

Marketing Students Reflect on Summer 2020 Internships

While many students’ summer internships looked a little different than usual in 2020, students still found ways to make their experience valuable. Whether working virtually or for an essential business there’s one thing that’s certain – Tippie Marketing students are resilient.  

Marketing students, Jackie Stutz, Allie Wendell, and Travis Hudson gave us a little insight on their virtual internship experience, while Michaela Ackerman provided some reflection on working for an essential business during COVID-19.  


Dealing with Obstacles

When asked about the biggest obstacles and concerns they faced during their internship, their answers ranged from dealing with uncertainty, lack of clarity about expectations, trying to separate work from home, and effectively communicating with coworkers.  

Working for ALDI, who was considered an essential business and held their internship in-person, Mikaela’s biggest concern was the uncertainty regarding how long the pandemic would last and what each day would look like. Mikaela relied on her coworkers and managers to ease her concerns saying, “being around the amazing co-workers I had during the internship made this so much easier. ALDI has fantastic communication and I appreciated them always keeping the interns in the loop. 

Travis expressed his difficulty understanding what was expected of him in the beginning of his internship which led to making a few mistakes early on. He was able to overcome the challenge saying, “because I was left alone and unsupervised for most of the day, I had to learn to reach out and ask questions for clarification and specificity.” 

Jackie described the difficulties of separating work and home saying, “I often found myself working 3 plus hours later than I normally would’ve in the office, simply because I had nothing else to do.” To overcome the challenge of working from home, she made a few key changes to find some balance. For Jackie, “It became really important to me to shut my laptop down at a reasonable time to make sure there was a healthy balance between work and home.” 

Allie found that, asking questions when I couldn’t find the answer myself, and learning whether coworkers liked to use email or Microsoft Teams to communicate”, helped her to overcome the communication challenges she faced 


Most Rewarding Aspect of their Internships

Reflecting on the most rewarding aspects of their internships, Mikaela remarked, “Honestly, it was as simple as thinking about all the experience I was able to get despite being in the middle of a pandemic was such a great feeling and I will be forever grateful for that.  

Allie also described the experience as an opportunity to develop professionally, stating, “The most rewarding part about my internship was being able to learn new skills that will help me in my future careers. One main skill I grew was time management. Being at home and not in an office I had to make sure I stayed on top of my work.”  

Jackie and Travis agreed that the connections they formed during their internships was extremely rewarding. “The people I worked with were by far my favorite part of the internship. Despite not being in person, connections and friendships were formed with everyone on the marketing team from the top down,” says Travis.  


Professional and Personal Growth

Asked about the ways in which they thought their experience affected their professional or personal growth, the sentiment was consistent among them that they were able to learn how to be more adaptable to change. Given the unusual circumstances they faced this summer, they all felt similarly that the experience has prepared them to work in a versatile and rapidly-changing workplace 

Jackie reiterated this saying, “It’s shown me that important work doesn’t have to be done in a professional office. That might seem simple, but I think it’s super cool that hard work and great things can be accomplished even in your desk in your bedroom. The world didn’t have to stop when everything went remote.” 


Exceeding Expectations and Accomplishments

When asked whether their internships had met, exceeded or fell short of their expectations, these Marketing Students had nothing but good things to share. Mikaela shared that, “The internship looked differently than I expected, but definitely exceeded my expectations. Even though the staff was not able to be all together, the communication was stronger than ever.”  

Next, the interns were asked to reflect on what they were most proud of accomplishing during their internships. Allie detailed her experience saying, “One thing I was most proud of during my internship was being able to gain so much experience about sales. I wasn’t just treated as an intern, I was treated as a regular employee.”  

Similarly, Travis remarked that he was, “most proud of the connections [he] made.” He went on to say, I believe the people I worked with truly want to see me succeed, and will help me in any way they can with my career going forward. 

Jackie and Mikaela shared similar accomplishments by both receiving full-time offers from the companies they interned with! Mikaela will start her full-time position with ALDI after graduation as a District Manager. Jackie started working for Pear Deck as a Marketing Coordinator Intern back in October 2019, and shared her most recent accomplishment this summer saying, “I’m really proud to say that I accepted a full-time job with them! As of July 2020, I’m a full-time Marketing Coordinator.” 


Learning from the Experience

Finally, we asked each of the interns to share what advice they would give to other students on how to make an internship as rewarding as possible.  

“To make a virtual internship rewarding be sure to attend all meetings your invited to, even if they are optional. These meetings can give you great insight on your department and you can learn so much just from listening.” – Allie 

“Make sure you take it seriously. It might be easy to slack off or not hold yourself accountable, but it’s important to not have that mindset. Get the most out of it because we don’t know how work settings will be after the pandemic.” – Jackie 

“Reach out to the people you work with, and make the extra effort to get to know them. Important connections can still be made virtually, networking doesn’t have to stop just because you aren’t face to face” – Travis 

“Be a sponge, have confidence, and ask questions!” – Mikaela 


Meet the students featured above:

Mikaela Ackerman is a senior at the Tippie College of Business. Mikaela interned with ALDI this past summer as a District Manager Intern.

Travis Hutson is in his final year at the Tippie College of Business. This past summer he was a Marketing and Business Development Intern with Hawthorne Advertising.

Jackie Stutz graduated from Tippie College of Business in May 2020. She completed her summer internship with Pear Deck as their Marketing Coordinator Intern.

Allie Wendell is a senior at the Tippie College of Business. In the summer of 2020, Allie was a Business Development, Sales Intern with Zebra Technologies.


One Last Toast to the Spring 2020 Graduates

When the Spring 2020 semester came to an end, 174 marketing students bid farewell to the Tippie College of Business virtually. Due to the unprecedented circumstances, this group of graduating students missed out on the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments on campus. To commemorate their successes, we reached out to a few of the graduating students to give them a chance to reflect on their experiences as Tippie Marketing students.  


What influenced you to pursue a degree/career in Marketing? 

Lauren Jackson: I have always valued relationships, creativity, and helping others throughout my life. When choosing a degree, I decided to pursue a business degree that would encompass all of those core values.

Derrick Johnson: I had an initial interest in business altogether. I felt like my creativity and content creation skills would be great strengths in marketing and promotions. Marketing stretches across all industries. I believed a marketing degree would be a valuable tool that’s applicable in a variety of areas.

Matthew Shellabarger: I chose a degree in Marketing because I wanted to solve problems that don’t have a clear path to the answer. I am an outgoing person, and I knew that Marketing would require me to always be working with others and align with my personality. I thought Marketing would give me the opportunity to find a job that is upbeat and everchanging.

Ashlyn Schumaker: I decided to pursue a degree in marketing because it gave me a consumer-focused view of business. The Marketing degree opens doors to several career paths in management, analytics, product design, sales, etc. Technology in the field is constantly changing, so it encourages strategic thinking and adaptability. 

Emily Studnicka: While I initially planned to pursue a B.A. in Psychology, I soon began to realize that the majority of my interests were centered around the emotional triggers to advertising and creative display. From a young age, my personal passions have been centered around fashion and innovation, causing me to develop a keen eye for creative appeal. After making the change early my Sophomore year, I quickly realized I made the right decision for myself. 


Reflecting on opportunities you took advantage of in college, what do you think best prepared you for life post-graduation?  

Lauren: I am so grateful I was encouraged to get involved in student organizations. They provided me with experiences and opportunities to grow as an individual. I was able to earn a leadership role within Dance Marathon as a Morale Captain. It built my confidence and brought forth key skills that I will use my entire life: public speaking, communication, and time management. Tippie Tech introduced me to leaders of various companies, and I was invited to interview for my new role at HPE through the membership.

Derrick: I’d say both the academic and extracurricular opportunities helped the most and prepared me for the pace and difficulty of marketing in the work force. Meanwhile, I met a variety of mentors and professionals in Tippie that helped grow my marketing abilities and gain confidence in my communication skills.

Matthew: Throughout my time at college, I participated in three different internships. My internships were in completely different business fields as well, logistics, IT, and sales. By working with different companies in different areas, this opened my eyes to what parts of business I really enjoy working for. Each position provided me with unique sets of skills and let me get a taste of what a real business job looks like. It was a great way to get out of my comfort zone, put my education to use, and build my resume.

Ashlyn: My internship with Leepfrog Technologies prepared me the most for life post-graduation. It allowed me to gain real world work experience in a professional setting. Leepfrog incorporated curriculum throughout to help us gain a better understanding of HR benefits, professional communication styles, and job shadowing. This helped me prepare for my full-time job as well as help me gain a better understanding of which career path I wanted to pursue.

Emily: I can confidently say that studying overseas in London left the greatest impact on my personal growth. As I reflect on my college years, I have come to realize that the most memorable experiences involved taking a step out of my comfort zone. My time spent in London flew by, filling my days with exploration and excitement. There’s no denying that I occasionally felt uncomfortable, but through this discomfort came the opportunity to grow. I developed a sense of needed flexibility, allowing me to live freely and explore at ease. The best memories ended up occurring spur of the moment, proving that you do not need a step by step plan for life.  The wisdoms gained abroad were lessons I could not have learned in the classroom. Opening myself up to situations, filled with new experiences and individuals, allowed me to gain a deeper understanding for a world less known.


What are 3 things you will miss most about Tippie and the Tippie community?  

Lauren: Three things I will miss the most about Tippie and the Tippie community are the people, the familiarity, and the smoothies in Pat’s Too. I have met some amazing people and become so comfortable with my college routine throughout my four years as a Tippie student.

Derrick: I’ll miss the marketing team and the professors that helped me throughout the years. I’ll also miss the friends I made and the sales competitions we participated in. It was all a fun and competitive experience that helped make me who I am today.

Matthew: The main thing I will miss most about Tippie is working alongside all of the other Tippie students and learning new things from them. Additionally, I will miss all of the friendships I made at Tippie throughout my entire college career. Lastly, I will miss all of the sources made available to me. Whether it be access to information or faculty members, I always felt that I was provided excellent help to prepare me for the real world.

Ashlyn: Seeing familiar faces in the hallways, Sigma Nu Tau, and Iowa JPEC.


How would you describe your job-searching experience in college? What did you learn throughout your process that you wish you had known sooner? 

Lauren: My job-searching experience was successful after I began taking advantage of the resources and opportunities provided to me. After many unsuccessful attempts at finding a job, I began reaching out to friends and the career center for help. The career center gave me great tips and resources. In addition, my friends and family encouraged me to attend Tippie Tech meetings to meet employers every week. I was fortunate to have gotten an interview, and later a job, after speaking with an employer at a Tippie Tech meeting. If it wasn’t for the guidance I received from the career center and my family and friends, I would probably not have been as successful and gotten a job early in November.

Derrick: The job searching experience has been tedious and disheartening at times, but I learned how to sell my skillset and showcase my strengths more effectively to employers. I wish I understood the job search more clearly in my earlier years, so I could’ve gotten a head start in networking and building my portfolio.

Matthew: I was very fortunate during my job search. I was offered a full-time position from the company I interned with the previous summer. However, I wish someone would have told me sooner in my job search that you need to go out and find a job. It is not just going to fall in your lap. While this seems a bit harsh, I originally thought if I got good grades and was in different activities then I would score a great job. That is not always the case. For anyone looking for a job, I would recommend reaching out to people through LinkedIn. Reaching out and building connections is the best way to get your name out there and score your dream job.

Ashlyn: There is a lot of pressure on seniors to have a job offer prior to graduation. I did not realize how time consuming the job search process would be. You must set aside a couple hours per day to apply for jobs and schedule phone calls and interviews. It is a very time-consuming process, but you have to learn to prioritize with your long-term interest in mind.

Emily: Despite the occasional discouragement that comes along with the job search, I have come to realize that perseverance, self-confidence, and a growing network of connections, are the keys to opening numerous doors. With the various paths available within Marketing, I had no idea where to begin. As I continued to connect with working professionals and alumni, gaining their perspectives on various roles and companies, I gradually began to recognize the career route that appeared fitting for me. If I could tell my past-self one thing, it would be to not take rejection to heart. It is okay to hear “no” more often than you hear “yes”. Take time to build your network and establish positive relationships to those within. The advice gained will speak volumes to your professional development.


What would you say was the most valuable lesson you learned throughout your time at Tippie? 

Lauren: I learned that you have the power to be your worst enemy or your biggest support. Become your biggest supporter by doing things that will overall benefit you in the long run.  Don’t be afraid to take advantage of office hours when you need help. Join that student organization you’ve been curious about. Create relationships with peers and professors. Those relationships will last through college and beyond.

Derrick: It’s important to find ways to differentiate yourself from others. Everyone at Tippie is smart, and we should spend more time building our strengths rather than just studying for tests.

Matthew: The most valuable lesson I learned throughout my time at Tippie was to focus on your weaknesses. By this, I don’t mean think about all the things you do bad. Instead acknowledge what you need to work on and practice developing these areas. For me, it was important to understand what my weaknesses were and turn them into strengths. This helped me build confidence and feel much more prepared to enter the workforce following graduation.


What is your last imparting wisdom to other marketing students on making the most of the college experience? 

Lauren: College goes by FAST. Make the most of your college experience by stepping outside of your comfort zone. Attend events on campus, create relationships with peers, and take advantage of the free resources that help your academic success.

Derrick: Join more marketing clubs. The networking and opportunities they present are crucial.

Ashlyn: Try to take advantage of every opportunity you get in college. There are a lot of ways to get involved, explore your interests, and step out of your comfort zone. You can share these experiences in the job search process and leverage the skills you gained whether technical or soft.

Emily: There is no timeline to life. Set the pace for your personal journey and realize that it is okay if things do not go as planned. Trying to control everything around you leaves nothing but unnecessary stress. Focus on what is in front of you and take it from there!


We want to extend our congratulations to the entire class of Spring 2020 graduates. Thank you for your leadership at Tippie and welcome to the Tippie Alumni Family!  


Meet the spectacular students featured in this article:

Lauren Jackson is from Peoria, Illinois and graduated with a double major in Marketing (Analytics track) and Business Analytics, and a minor in Psychology. She is now a Technology Consultant with Hewlett Packard Enterprise.  

Derrick Johnson is from Council Bluffs, Iowa and graduated with a major in Marketing (Professional Sales & Management track) and a certificate in Leadership Studies. Derrick is currently a Retail Sales and Execution Specialist for Chobani. 

Matthew Schellaburger is from Muscatine, Iowa and completed hiMarketing degree (Professional Sales & Management track). Matthew now works for The HON Company as a Sales Development Associate. 

Ashlyn Shumaker is originally from West Des Moines, Iowa and graduated as a Marketing major (Analytics Track) with certificates in Sustainability and Entrepreneurial Management. Her current position is with Keyot as a Crew 212 Process Engineer. 

And last but not leastEmily Studnicka. Emily is from Frankfort, Illinois and graduated with a degree in Marketing (Retail Management track) and a minor in Psychology. 

John Staak is Back for His PhD in 2020

John Staak can’t seem to get enough of the Iowa Hawkeyes and is back for Round 3 at Tippie this semester. After graduating from the MSBA/MBA program in 2019 and working as a Customer Analyst at Casey’s, John is ready to conquer his PhD. Get to know John and learn more about his decision to join the Marketing PhD program below!

Could you start by telling me a little bit about yourself and your experiences at the University of Iowa?

I grew up in Iowa City. I’ve lived here most of my life, but I can be really confident in saying that it’s a really special place to be. I also got married in May last year. My wife and I met freshman year of college.

I was really inspired in my undergrad to go into the Marketing field and then ultimately, try for this PhD in Marketing. I remember classes with Rob Rouwenhorst, Nancy Abram, and Nick Westergaard. The content and concepts they presented was fascinating. You have this whole field of understanding on how markets work, how consumers behave, and how you can study that and tailor your business strategies around that.  

After undergrad, I went to work for a company called Converge in Cedar Rapids. Converge was a digital marketing agency and we also built websites there, but we specialized in the higher education industry. I was an account manager there, which meant that I managed digital advertising accounts. Think search engine marketing, social media marketing, helping develop ad copy, and building strategies around budgets. I really enjoyed the consulting part of my work and it was heavy in analytics. I didn’t really know it at the time because I was just managing ad accounts, but there’s a lot of analysis that would go into how you should spend your budget, across what platforms, and setting up testing to figure out what kind of ads are the most responsive.  

That was a really incredible experience. It was a really small company, I think I was employee #12. It’s since grown to be much larger. That really sparked my interest in analytics. As much as I loved working at Converge, I really wanted to get a more generalized background in analytics that wasn’t focused on a specific industry or marketing application 

So I thought about my MBA, which is a well-rounded approach to business. I keep coming back to Iowa because I know the quality that comes with the faculty at Iowa. They had a stand-alone track for Analytics in the MBA, so I thought, perfect, I can learn all about Analytics and get the holistic view of business that an MBA offers. That led me to the MBA and MSBA, which was a great program. I didn’t know anything about Data Science or Analytics before and in two years, all the sudden, you’re writing code in R and SQL. It’s pretty remarkable.  

Throughout that program, I had the chance to work on a couple of field projects and I enjoyed the hands-on experience with companies. So I worked on this project with Kum & Go and then I just so happened to end up working for Casey’s. It was kind of serendipitous.  

Could you tell me a little bit about the work you did with Casey’s? 

My role was a Customer Analyst. Before going to Casey’s, they went through a value creation strategy. They created new departments, and specific to my role, they created a Digital Experience team. Within that they created a Customer Analytics & Insights team with the initiative to have a much better understanding of how customers purchase, what they purchase, what the patterns are, and how do we understand that to better serve them. That’s what led me to Casey’s. The timing worked out that they were creating that team as I was graduating from the MBA program. 

In my position, we could learn a lot about our customers from our databases, but in a lot of cases people aren’t databases. There’s a lot that goes missed because we’re just looking at their data. I did a lot of field observations at Casey’s to observe how customers shop, what they buy, and how they interact with different parts of the stores. I gained so much information about customers that way. Since I couldn’t do that all day every day, the idea of tapping into the knowledge of frontline workers in a structured way opened up so much more insight into what the customers want. 

Now I’m doing consulting part-time for Casey’s. I think it’s important, if you have the opportunity, to do both [work and do the PhD program]. It helps you stay in touch with real business applications and real problems that companies are trying to solve. It helps you stay grounded in how you can apply research to problems that companies are pulling their hair out trying to solve. I’m excited to stick with them because it gives me an inside look at the challenges for retail companies of needing data robustness and validation provided through research. 

How did your undergraduate and MBA experiences shape your outlook on marketing? 

I took Nick Street’s Data Science class and I think that got me really excited for retail analytics. It made me realize we don’t have to just speculate about how consumers might behave. We can predict it. And in some cases, we can predict it really well if we have the right data.  

Rob Rouwenhorst was also a big influence on me with the way he taught. In class he was always going to tell you how it is and tell you what the world is like. It was entertaining to be in his class and I learned so much. He definitely had a big impact on me. 

What prompted you to make the decision to join the PhD program? 

I don’t think there was a singular event. It’s funny because I found an old list of goals from when I was an undergrad and a lot of them were “pie in the sky” goals, but one said PhD in Marketing. So, it must have been something I was thinking about for a while. I’ve always really liked school and researching, acquiring knowledge and learning. In the past couple years, as I was reflecting on what I want to do with my career 10, 20 years down the road, I was thinking about what brings me the most fulfillment in my job. I could think of two instances when I’m most happy. 

One is when I’m teaching a coworker or someone outside the company about a new concept or a new way to do something. I realized that was so fulfilling to know I’m making an impact, even if it’s small, that’s going to make their lives better.  

The other is coming across a really interesting and actionable finding in data that nobody else has seen before. So, I thought about what career lends itself to those two areas. Being a professor is very research-focused, but you’re also constantly teaching and interacting with students. So I did some exploration, and just decided to go for it.  

What area of research are you most interested in? Why do you think it’s important to study? 

I’m trying to go into this program with an open mind and really take the first few months to explore that. My role at Casey’s was very customer-centric and I’m really fascinated with customer analytics, mining customer level data to understand their behavior and what motivates them. 

I think it’s important because if companies want to best serve their customers, which is what marketing is all about, it’s absolutely critical to understand how they behave, how they purchase, and why they might lapse. Looking at customer segmentation and what natural segments of customers emerge and why that is. Then using that to explore improvement for marketing strategy. Customer analytics is an ambiguous area and normally research is hyper-focused.  

Specifically, I will say I have an interest in researching online customer behavior and optimizing e-commerce experienceI think that’s going to be increasingly important in the age of COVID and a really sought after area for best practices and research. It’s an area that has a lot of ongoing research, but how people are using digital is constantly changing.  

I worked closely with rewards programs at Casey’s to understand how customers use the program and what incentives work best to keep them engaged and loyal. I’d say, in general, I’m interested in Customer Analytics, but more specifically, research around digital platforms, how to optimize e-commerce experience, rewards programs, and customer centricity.  

What are you hoping to gain from this experience and how do you plan to apply it? 

I think the big thing is converting data into insights into theoryThe benefit of the PhD program is you think about how can you move from insights that data provides into theories about why people behave the way they do. It’s taking one step further, beyond the data, to understand why some phenomena happens and helping companies, or anybody really, leverage that. You’re creating knowledge for why something happens. 

What advice would you give to undergraduate marketing students starting to think about post-graduate life? 

First, figure out what gives you energy and what makes you excited, and figure out what you’re good atThen, find the intersection of those two areas and you’ll be really happy in whatever you’re doing.  

Second, I really wish as an undergrad I branched out more and reached out to people in business or even professors. It can be a little bit intimidating when you’re 19-22 years old to reach to somebody who is a Chief Marketing Officer or has a big, prestigious title. People really want to help, I’ve found out. Especially when you’re a student, they want to help that much more. It kind of gives you an automatic in to be able to reach out to anybody. 

What are you most looking forward to this semester and the rest of your PhD program? 

Just exploring areas of customer insights, getting really deep into those topics, and exploring all the possibilities for research. At this point, it’s a little overwhelming how much opportunity there is, but the program is extensive and it affords you the time to think about really interesting areas that are in demand for research. On top of that, working with faculty, learning from other students, attending conferences, and understanding emerging areas of research. Additionally, working with companies to figure out what they would like to know and then thinking about how academic research could fit that need. 

My approach is to integrate constant communication with industry, specifically retailers, to understand what problems need to be solved. Then, look for opportunities where academic research can build theory and methods around solving those problems. I think it’s absolutely crucial to be in touch with businesses and real-world problems.  

Favorite things about Iowa City/University of Iowa? 

It’s a big city opportunities because of the resources and opportunities, but small town feel. It’s a great restaurant scene, which I love to eat so I’m really happy about that. My favorite restaurant is Stella, but Big Grove is also tied for number 1. Overall, Iowa City is really a unique and tight knit community. 

As far as the University goes, I think Tippie and the faculty have always impressed me. I’ve always really enjoyed learning from them and being mentored by them. That’s why I’ve been loyal to the University. And Iowa Football, of course! 

Favorite quarantine activities/hobbies? 

Golf, Netflix (recently watched The Umbrella Academy and The West Wing), playing with my doga mini Goldendoodle named Dot (pictured right), and reading. Some of the books that stand out are Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger, and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Both books are from academic researchers, but those types of books that are in the popular press do so much to further their ideas. 


Fall 2020 Career Fair Guide for Marketing Students

The Fall 2020 Virtual Business & Entrepreneurship Job & Internship Fair will be held this Thursday, September 24, 2020 from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. Students must register for the event on Handshake and can then sign up for group or 1-on-1 sessions with employers they wish to learn more about. Check out this Handshake Guide for more information about how to attend the virtual career fair. 

We’ve put together a list of employers attending the Career Fair who are seeking Marketing Majors for full-time positions and internships. This list was compiled to help you narrow down which companies you’d like to speak with at the Career Fair. Check out the list of companies attending the Career Fair and some of the jobs they have available below! 


Advertising, PR & Marketing 

Division-D – Political Account Executive, Recruitment Manager 

Kendall Hunt Publishing, Co – Corporate RecruiterCustomer Support Specialist, Sales Intern, Social Media Intern, Graphic Design Intern, Publishing Services Intern, Associate Web Project Editor Intern 


Banking & Investment Banking 

Bankers Trust – Summer Internship Program 

Cambridge Investment Research – Digital Front-End Developer, Education & Events Content Curator, Various Internships 

CIBC – Client Service Representative, Corporate Summer Internship 

DLL Financial Solutions – Account Executive 

Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago – Communications Intern, Sales Intern 

GreatAmerica Financial Services – Sales & Operations Support Specialist, Sales Support Specialist Development Program, Sales Internship 

McAdam Financially Advanced  Financial Advisor/Wealth Manager 

Passage Global Capital Management – Marketing and Communications Specialist, Marketing Assistant Intern 

Renaissance Financial – Financial Advisor 



Alliant Energy, Inc. – Various Internships 

Renewable Energy Group – Customer & Sales Admin Coordinator, Business Development Intern, Corporate Strategy Intern, Corporate Services Intern, Corporate Environmental & Social Responsibility Intern, Sales & Marketing Intern, Procurement Intern, Communications Intern 


Internet & Technology 

CDW – Sales Internship Program 

Collins Aerospace – Marketing Operations Specialist, Marketing Specialist Intern, Business Development Intern, Integrated Solutions Marketing Intern 

Course Hero – Campus Representative 



Cottingham & Butler – Sales Executive, Graphic Designer, Sales Intern, Client Management/Consulting Intern 

Geico – Sales Representative, Emerging Leaders Program, Underwriting and Product Management Intern 

Goosehead Insurance – Account Executive, Franchise Sales Coordinator, Service Agent 

Holmes Murphy & Associates – Business Development Associate, Account Manager, Summer Internship Program 

Mutual of Omaha – Consumer Marketing Intelligence Analyst, Associate Marketing Project Manager, Sales Analyst  

Northwestern Mutual – Financial Advisor, Financial Representative Intern 

Global Atlantic Financial Group – Sales Intern, Business Relationship Intern, Digital Customer Experience Intern 



Direct Supply – Search Engine Marketing Specialist, Sourcing Associate, Marketing Intern 


Manufacturing & Distribution 

Caterpillar Inc. – Marketing Rep Development Program, Marketing Media Consultant, Salesforce UX/UI Designer, Various Internships 

HNI Corporation – Sales Development Associate, Supply Chain Analyst, Supply Chain Intern 

New Leader Manufacturing – Marketing Intern, Supply Chain Intern 

Pella Corporation – Sales Development ProgramSupplier Specialist, Production Supervisor, Field Sales InternDigital Marketing SEO Intern, Retail Sales Intern, User Experience Design Intern 

Vermeer Corporation – Product Marketing Specialist Intern, Sales Support Intern, Graphic Design Intern 


Retail & Food 

ALDI, Inc. – Marketing Assistant – Divisional, Marketing Assistant – Product Photography Sourcing, Digital Specialist – Media, Promotions Assistant – Trend & Design, Public Relations Assistant – Influencer, Pricing Specialist – Produce, Corporate Responsibility Specialist, District Manager Intern 

Casey’s – Community Program Coordinator 

Chick-fil-A – Various Internships 

Mike’s Hard Lemonade – Field Sales Representative, Customer Service Planner, Social Media Associate Manager, Marketing Intern, Sales Intern 

Sherwin-Williams Company – Management/Sales Full-Time Training Program, Management/Sales Internship 

Target – Operations Manager, Loyalty Operations Analyst, Store Management Intern, Associate Buyer Intern, Marketing Intern 

Uline – Marketing Associate, Pricing Analyst, E-Commerce Merchandising Manager, Sales Account Representative, Sales InternMarketing Intern, Business Development Intern, Product Marketing Intern, Graphic Design Intern 

Von Maur – Retail Merchandising Internship, Retail Management Internship, Executive Training Program 

Wells Blue Bunny – Sales Development Program Associate, E-Commerce Content Specialist, Creative Design Intern 


Staffing & Recruiting, Human Resources 

Beacon Hill Staffing Group  Staffing Consultant, Account Executive, Associate Consultant 

Collabera – Account Manager 

Insight Global – Recruiter/Account Management 

Palmer Group – Sales Representative, Digital Media Buyer/Digital Marketer, Marketing Coordinator 

RHM Staffing Solutions – Entry Level Sales, Sales Trainee 


Transportation & Logistics 

Arrive Logistics – Sales Representative, Carrier Sales Representative, Pricing Analyst 

Avenue Logistics – Account Executive  

Coyote Logistics – Sales Representative, Digital Marketing Specialist, Carrier Sales Intern, Customer Relations Intern 

CRST International, Inc. – Leadership Development Rotational Program, Pricing Analyst, Driver Recruiter, Driver Manager, Sales Executive 

Echo Logistics – Client/Carrier Sales Representative, Client/Carrier Sales Intern, Marketing Intern, Intermodal Intern 

Enterprise Holdings – Management Trainee, Full Management Trainee Intern 

MoLo Solutions – Carrier Sales Representative, Customer Operations Representative, Carrier Sales Intern, Customer Operations Representative 

Schneider – Sales Account Representative, Client Relationship Manager, Media Relations Manager, Recruiting Specialist, Various Internships 



Greater Des Moines Partnership – Festival Programs Internship, Graphic Design Internship 

KMB Property Management – Marketing Intern 

AArete – Consulting Intern