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Graduate Students

Alumni Perspectives

Meet some of our recent alumni and hear what they have to say about their graduate experience at Grand View.  


Here, John Neldeberg and Peter Kiernan, both 2011 business graduates, share a theory.

Peter Kiernan, Business '11

Peter Kiernan decided to pursue a graduate education after a discussion of career path planning at his employer, John Deere. He saw an opportunity to advance his level of education, communication skills and credentials, for both his career and personal growth goals. Peter has a long tradition with Grand View. He graduated with a double major in Accounting and Business Administration in 1994 and graduated again in 2010 with his mater's degree. He serves on President Henning's Advisory Council. 

 "I looked at Grand View’s program because I wanted to focus on improving my leadership skills and to gain an understanding of the dynamics of leadership. After looking at Grand View's curriculum, a traditional MBA would not meet this objective. I was interested in expanding my knowledge in areas other than business. Since my undergraduate degree from Grand View was in Business and Accounting, this prepared me and has provided me a very successful career with John Deere."

Peter has worked for John Deere for the past twelve years and is currently a pricing analyst in the Intelligent Vehicle Solutions Division. They develop and manufacture satellite technology to provide combines and tractors field solutions of yield mapping and hands-free steering. Peter was raised on a farm south of Des Moines that has been in his family since 1855. Today he farms southeast of Des Moines, which allows him to stay current with farming practices, technologies, and marketing of commodities. So he was also looking for a graduate program with plenty of flexibility to match his busy schedule.

"I was really impressed with the caliber of the subject matter and the professors at Grand View. This was a tremendous learning opportunity, and I also had a great time. The interdisciplinary nature of the program means classes have a great mix of students, a very diverse group with different perspectives and personal experiences. That matters because leaders will not always be interacting with the same type of people in one area at the same time.

"I encourage those contemplating graduate study to look at their own career and personal goals, their strengths and areas where there is room for improvement. Then look at what Grand View offers to meet these goals. My great grandfather used to say, your life is what you make of it; Grand View has definitely prepared the foundation to allow me to not only set goals but to obtain them."

Tawnia Cummings, Education '11

After working as a substitute teacher for several local school districts, Tawnia Cummings began teaching Advanced Composition at Knoxville High School fulltime. She's convinced that among the reasons she was hired were her graduate experience and her desire to enhance her career. When asked why she chose to return to school, she says, "I'd been wanting to return to school, not only for career advancement, but also because I always enjoyed working with others toward a common goal that was not particularly work-related."

Tawnia had been looking at various educational master's programs at Drake and ISU, among others. When her husband happened to mention that Grand View offers a master's program, she spent time on the Grand View website, researching the details of the degree. "When I discovered that it met once a week and involved students from multiple disciplines, I applied immediately."

Tawnia says the program is perfect for working adults with families. "I got married during the first semester, and I was able to keep up with the class work. I will say that the reading load is very heavy, and I devoted many Sunday and Monday nights toward reading, but it is not impossible. I've learned a lot about group work, management, and leadership, which is why I wanted to receive my master's in Leadership, and I'm excited to learn more about educational leadership."

Her advice to others who are thinking about graduate school: "Take a good look at your goals and determine if graduate school will help you accomplish those goals. Graduate school isn't for those who don't have defined career goals. Also, Innovative Leadership is great for people who are looking for a multi-discipline approach to their graduate education, which is great for gaining perspective.

"Even if your employer doesn't pay for graduate school, it's very easy to get financial aid to pay for your graduate education, so don't hesitate because you think you can't afford it. Grand View is very reasonably priced, and the 21-month timeline is approachable for anyone looking to learn more about leadership, research, and workplace dynamics."

Kristin Drewis, Education '15

The first five years of my career was spent teaching Literacy at a middle school that was both Persistently Low Achieving as well as a School in Need of Assistance according to the government. Quite a few students I had through these years dealt with issues that acted as a barrier to their education. Sometimes it was a learning or behavior disability and other times it was because English was their second language. For many, their home life was not what we as teachers hoped it would be. My colleagues and I had to use the hour per day we saw each of our 108 students the best we knew how. I always knew that I would obtain my master's degree; I just didn’t think it would be so early in my teaching career. When I saw how much my students needed, I decided to go to graduate school. I had to improve my craft and dig in to the latest research so that my students got the best education in Literacy they possibly could during the time they were with me.

As soon as I learned that Grand View University had a Master's in Education program, I decided that is where I would go when the time came due to the great experience I had there while obtaining my bachelor’s degree. As I dug in to the details, I saw that the master's program was the perfect fit for me not only as an educator who wanted to make a major impact on my students, but also as a working wife and mother of two with one on the way. We met one night a week from 5:00PM to 10:00PM with a few tweaks to the schedule here and there. This was perfect for my family because it was consistent.

Although the schedule and staff were amazing, the comradery that developed with my cohort was second to none. We became a support system for each other and, eventually, great friends. Working with people who genuinely care about each other made the work we were doing that much better, because we challenged each other and called each other out when we weren’t where we needed to be, whether it was our attitude, a small assignment or the topic of our Capstone Project.

I suggest that anyone getting his or her master's degree in education look at Grand View University as the top contender. The work you do there will directly benefit your students from day one, and your craft will improve due to the professors you will have, the cohort you’ll work with, and the work you immerse yourself in.

Steve Orazem, Nursing '11

Steve Orazem is the manager of the inpatient oncology unit at Iowa Methodist Hospital. He’s responsible for the operation of Powell 3, a 28-bed nursing unit with a large staff. The patient population is adults with all different types of cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease and other blood disorders. Because many of the patients are very ill, they and their family members have significant needs.

Steve comments, “I’m fortunate to work with a very dedicated staff, many of whom have committed many years to caring for people with cancer. Some people say ‘your work must be very sad’. That’s not the case. This is one of the most hope-filled places that I’ve ever worked. Sometimes the goal is cure and going home. Sometimes the goal is being pain-free and having the best quality of life possible. My work is very energizing.”

He pursued his master's degree to be better at his work, especially as a change agent, because change is a big part of life in organizations.

As he contemplated returning to school, he focused on his love of learning. “I enjoy reading and thinking about things that I’ve never thought about before. I enjoy meeting and talking to people who have perspectives different from my own. I’ve been a nurse for only 10 years and was a teacher before that, so I’m looking for a way to combine the things that I enjoy and get satisfaction from in both nursing and education.”

Before enrolling in Grand View’s program, Steve had been thinking for several years about going back to school. He investigated a number of different programs and decided Grand View had several advantages from his perspective.

“I got my BSN at GV and know some of the faculty, and it’s close to home. Probably my strongest reason was my prior experience here. I’ve seen that the focus here is on good teaching. The faculty are committed to that. Some schools are focused on other things – research, service to the community etc. At Grand View the focus seems to be on teaching and learning. I appreciate that.”

Asked about his impressions, Steve says, “I was very happy with the program. I feel like it was a good choice for me. There is a good deal of reading, but much of it is very relevant to my practice. Having the three tracks (education, business and nursing) together for the first two semesters is a real strength of the program. The different perspectives of people in these areas make our discussion richer. Working full time and having a young family, I really need to spend my time and energy wisely. This program worked well for me.”

John Neldeberg, Business '12

My best GV grad school experience
Well, there are certainly a number of them to account as it was a new experience every week through discussion and connections.  However, I think the greatest experience will be the connections that I made along the way in the creation of some lifelong friends.  Individuals that not only shared the experience but have a similar focus on change and leadership, colleagues who I will know and be connected with for so much longer than just the time in school to learn and benchmark with through life.

How have I benefited from my GV master’s degree?
I now have a renewed focus in my career and family.  The leadership program was so much more than just a benefit for my career.  The program allowed me to strengthen core skills of a leader which has allowed me to build those into specific elements for my career, family, community, and church.

How did I balance life, work, and school?
A balance is always a delicate matter! However, with the course work I was able to set aside a little time each day to manage the work that was needed for each week.  I found that letting it build up over the week and then cramming the day before class left me with work that I was not fully satisfied with.  The teachers were very flexible and understanding that everyone had many commitments outside of school.  They made every effort to work with us so that we could achieve a balance.

How am I using what I learned?
I’m currently a manager in my career.  What I found was the ability to begin implementation of the skills I learned right away.  I even joked with my team that I was using them as my testing ground for what I learned at school.  The ability to implement learned skills from the classroom has allowed me to fine tune those leadership qualities and make them stronger attributes.  I now use my education every day!

Why Grand View?
I think the question should be “Why not Grand View.”  The rich history of the school and its amazing connections to Des Moines and the leaders of central Iowa was a draw for the program.  I think the main deciding factors boiled down to three main components:

  • Size -  At Grand View I knew the class sizes are always manageable and allow the professors to have close personal attention and interaction with the students.  In many of today’s master's programs you're simply a number. This is absolutely not the case at Grand View! You matter, and your success in the program is of ultimate importance to university.
  • On campus in classroom experience – To be a leader you have to have learned skills that go beyond what online course work can offer you.  The classroom environment brought an element that could never be replicated by online course work.
  • The program – I looked at many programs through Drake, Iowa, ISU and others that did not have the focus I was looking for.  I knew I wanted a Master's degree but did not need a typical MBA.  This program allowed me to really focus on me and taught me to draw out my skills and abilities.  The leadership aspect of this program was a draw to Grand View because it is so much more than just a leader at work.  It really takes you as a person and gives strength to all aspects of your life.
Rachel Evans, Nursing '12

Best GV grad experience
Having the experience to be in class with the other track members was great. Spending every Tuesday night together really made us bond. The friends that I have made have been my support through school and have really helped me through some difficult times.
Benefits of the degree
The knowledge that I have gained through my courses at GV has been easily applied to my current position. I have been able to use many concepts and projects that I learned in my courses at my workplace. My workplace has benefited from what I have learned. 
Balancing life, work, school
I have a very supportive husband and family. There were specific times that my husband and kids knew not to bother mom because she was doing homework. But I also made sure there were specific days that I devoted to my family and did no school work. 
Using what I learned
Concepts from the first course and every other course we took are still be used in my everyday work. Everything I have learned has been applicable to my job. 
Why Grand View?
 I received my undergraduate degree from Grand View. I was familiar with the instructors and knew I would feel comfortable with them. Most of all, the program really fit into my busy life. I knew I needed a program that would offer class time and having the consistent one night a week for the entire program was the perfect fit. 

Tammy Snyder, Business '12

My best GV grad school experience
My best experience was absolutely getting to know my classmates and learning from their experiences in the business world. I have been working for 20 years in the same organization and have great colleagues, but it was good to learn from other perspectives.  I have to add that it was also a great experience to learn from all of the professors, but specifically Dr. Whyte.  He has such an effective way of challenging us to think outside of the norm and also using literature that on the surface may seem to have absolutely no connection to leadership to draw out effective leadership tools.

How have I benefited from my GV master’s degree?
For me personally it was an opportunity to learn new tools that will allow me to continue to be relevant in an ever-changing organization and industry, and to help my team members do the same. My organization benefited because virtually every assignment and reading throughout the two years is applicable to my business world. I have implemented several of the learned concepts in my own departments and some throughout our organization as well.

How did I balance life, work, and school?
Sometimes not very well! After many years of not being in school, it took some doing to figure out the right balance. I had a very supportive employer but also ended up occasionally taking some vacation days just to catch up on homework. After the first few quarters of missing several family events to do homework, I recognized the value of not doing so and somehow found a way to get it all done.
How am I using what I learned?
Almost all of the concepts and readings are very applicable to my work, leading in a changing world. Since I am already in a leadership role, I have the benefit of being able to try new concepts or leadership styles and encourage others on my team to do the same without having to worry about obtaining upper management support.  I talked to my team about lots of what I learned and made some changes to things in my work world accordingly while also obtaining buy in and being careful to not have my team think it was a new flavor of the month.

Why Grand View?
After taking a leadership series at Drake, I got the bug to go back to school for the first time since obtaining my bachelor's degree twenty years prior.  I searched many local schools for different programs and was intrigued by the innovative leadership idea, especially in a time when my organization and our line of business are changing with lightening speed!

Haleigh Biancalana, Sport Management '16

"I have been involved in sports either as a player, coach, or event staff for as long as I can remember. A lot of my interest comes from opportunities I had while at Grand View. I attended as an undergraduate student majoring in Health Promotion Wellness Management. As a member of the women’s basketball team I got to meet some great athletic department staff. From interning and working at different sporting events in different roles, I truly found my passion for sporting events and the management and operational work that goes into them.

A Great Fit
"After I graduated in 2014, Grand View announced the Sport Management master’s program. I felt that this fit perfectly with my goals and interests within the field and decided to go for it! Being able to enroll in an accredited program in the Des Moines area was a huge plus for me. Des Moines has a lot of opportunities within the sports community to get involved, and I was excited to see where the program could take me.

Community Connections
"One of the biggest things about Grand View that is so valuable are the great connections with businesses in the community; some of the most influential organizations in the local industry are on advisory boards for the different programs, making networking and potential job opportunities a phone call away. This helps to spread the Grand View name within the community and can help you stand out among other job applicants.

"The program itself is very hands on and includes professors with real life experience. The class sizes are small which allows for one- on-one attention from the professors and the opportunity to build relationships with your fellow classmates. Classes themselves are full of great information on topics that apply specifically to sports management and related fields. The curriculum is designed to help you explore the field and truly find the area that you have the most interest and talent in.

Internships & Experiences
"I had my first taste of the sporting industry in the Des Moines area through my internship with the Des Moines Convention Center and Des Moines Sports Commission. It was great to see just how much work goes into bringing certain events to the area and how much impact they have on Des Moines and the state of Iowa as a whole.

"My experiences being a student athlete, working with Grand View athletics, interning with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, have led me to my current position at the Iowa Events Center where I am an Event Manager. The Iowa Events Center is made up of Wells Fargo Arena, Hy-Vee Hall, and the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center; these venues attract great events and sporting events that I will have the pleasure to work with.

"My advice for anyone considering the idea to start the Sport Management master’s at Grand View is, do it! If you are looking for an accredited program, in a major city, with knowledgeable professors with real life work experience, and an overall positive environment, this is definitely the program for you. I have thoroughly enjoyed the program, and am thankful for the opportunities and the people I have met because of it."