UIU degrees set grad on career path

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For the past four years, John Maehl has been the supervisor for the northeast district of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Having both a master’s of business administration and undergraduate degree from Upper Iowa University, Maehl feels confident that he has the tools he needs to be an effective manager and that he’s able to communicate better to the general public and to staff.

When Maehl was looking to transfer from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids to a university where he could obtain a bachelor’s degree in conservation management, he looked to Upper Iowa University.

“Upper Iowa was an easy choice,” he said. “It had a very streamlined process for transferring my credits from Kirkwood to Upper Iowa. It was a very polished process. Also, a great majority of DNR employees in eastern Iowa have degrees from Upper Iowa. These are very successful people who are leaders in conservation management. It just made sense to go to Upper Iowa.”

After graduation in 1997, Maehl took a position at Wilson Island near Omaha, Nebraska, on the Missouri River. There he worked as a natural resources technician for the Iowa DNR for six months before he was promoted to natural resources technician II. He and his wife, Charity, moved so that he could take a position at Springbrook Conservation Education Center near Guthrie Center, Iowa. There he trained educators how to introduce natural resource curriculum into their classrooms. Six months later he was promoted to manager of the Wapsipinicon State Park near Anamosa, Iowa.

Maehl then pursued a master’s in business administration degree. He realized that in order to further his career, he would need to know how to better manage his own resources to get the most out of his chosen career path. “I knew that getting more science courses wasn’t holding me back,” he said. “The more you progress in your career, the less technical work you do. It becomes more important that you are able to foster an environment for the people who work for you and best use the resources available.”

Upper Iowa University’s online MBA program was an easy choice for Maehl. Once again, he knew immediately that he would be comfortable with the UIU program and it would fit his needs.

With his MBA, Maehl felt he could accomplish anything, and he decided to put his education to the ultimate test by taking a manager’s position at the biggest, most intense park in Iowa. “I just said, ‘Let’s go for it. We’re going to learn. We’re going to grow. Let’s just do it,’” he recalled. For three years Maehl managed the park, and did it so well that when he was promoted to district supervisor for the northwest Iowa district, nine DNR employees put in for their chance at stepping into his role at the now well-run park. Two years later, he transferred to the northeast Iowa district.

Maehl said that after obtaining his MBA degree through UIU, he really saw growth and positive change in himself, and feels that his conservation management degree has been greatly enhanced by the master’s program. In addition to managing the 10 parks in northeast Iowa, Maehl is also an adjunct instructor at Kirkwood Community College, conducts countless presentations to the general public and special groups, as well as effectively conducts the day-to-day administrative and budget planning needs of the northeast district of Iowa DNR. He says that with his master’s degree he has become a better planner and is more intuitive to the needs of his staff and the position as a whole.

“The MBA degree allows you to think critically about everything,” he said. “You’re better able to think of ways to improve a situation, and it teaches you to think about every single detail to be more effective.”

Maehl said he feels very strongly that northeast Iowa has the best resources for state parks and the best DNR staff in Iowa. He and his family were able to settle in Monticello, Iowa, and be in the position that he worked hard for because of the education he earned at Upper Iowa University. “The most attractive part about Upper Iowa is that you’re not just a number,” he added. “The personal attention that instructors gave is phenomenal. They worked with me one-on-one, and they assisted me from my undergrad years all the way through the MBA program.”