2015 MBA To Watch: Karen Rubel

Karen Rubel

Karen Rubel


University of Iowa

In a word, Karen Rubel is a “winner.” The school’s 2014 Excellence in Leadership Award recipient, Rubel is best known for her competitive prowess, leading teams to first-place finish at the Association for Corporate Growth case competition and a second-place showing at the Battle of the Elite Business Schools competition. Most impressively, her team finished third (out of 250 teams) at the Aspen Institute Global Case Competition (despite being the only finalist consisting of all first-year students). In addition, Rubel was president of the Graduate Financial Management Association. A CPA, Rubel aspires to be a CFO of a Fortune 500 company and will work for Intel after graduation.

Age: 29

Hometown: Rockford, IL

Undergraduate School: Loras College

Undergraduate Degree: Accounting & Criminal Justice

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Deere & Company, Accountant and McGladrey LLP, Senior Assurance Associate

Where did you intern during the summer of 2014? Peabody Energy, St. Louis, MO

Where will you be working after graduation? Intel Corporation, Senior Financial Analyst

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I graduated with my undergraduate degree. It was always in my plan to earn my MBA after I had a few years of full-time work experience.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…continuing my career path in accounting.”

What are your long-term professional goals? My ultimate goal is to be a CFO of a Fortune 500 company.

Favorite Courses: The Henry Fund, a $3.9M endowed equity portfolio managed by selected students, and GLO (Global Learning Opportunity), an experiential learning visit to Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? Earning my CPA, and being asked to be the teaching assistant to the Krause Fund, an undergraduate student-run portfolio.

Who would you most want to thank for your success (and why)? My husband, Josh. He has always pushed me to be my best and strive harder, while being supportive of my career decisions, which have caused me to travel often. This includes being gone for a full summer internship, while he balanced working his full-time job and caring for our two children. Without his support and encouragement, I would not have been able to achieve my goals.

Why did you choose this business school?

I choose Tippie for several reasons, with the highlights being: the strong Finance program (ranked #2 by the Financial Times in January 2015), the small class sizes, and the high ROI.

What did you enjoy most about business school?

All of the experiences I gained outside of the typical classroom-setting, including case competitions in New York City and Minneapolis, meeting Warren Buffett in Omaha, organizing trips for Finance students to meet with CEOs and CFOs in Kansas City, and traveling to China. Ultimately, these experiences improved my business acumen, and created memories that will last a lifetime, with classmates who became some of my best friends.

What is your most memorable moment from business school? My most memorable moment from business school was competing in the final round of the Aspen Business & Society International Case Competition in New York City. The case was about a small company in rural Mexico that was trying to figure out the next steps to take. The company halted any decisions until after the competition because the CEO wanted real input from MBAs in the competition. He attended the final presentations and I felt like we were actually working to solve real-life problems, rather than the theory we learn in b-school.

Fun fact about yourself: I have been to games at all 30 current MLB stadiums.

Favorite book: The Paris Wife

Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption

Favorite musical performer: Trace Adkins

Favorite television show: The Amazing Race

Favorite vacation spot: Disneyworld; it’s so fun to relive happy childhood memories and now share them with my children.

What are your hobbies? I love to cook, travel and scrapbook, in addition to spending time with my husband, 5 year old son, 2 year old daughter, and our two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

What made Karen such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015?

“As I considered how to start this nomination essay, I came across words from faculty member Meg Thompson, who taught Karen in a core course and in a case competition elective. Meg stated that Karen is “one of the finest students I’ve met in my tenure at Tippie.” 

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Karen has successfully participated in multiple case competitions, including a victory in the Association for Corporate Growth Cup in Minneapolis in 2015. In 2014, she was part of a team that finished in the top 3—out of over 250 teams—at the Aspen Institute Global Case Competition. Hers was the only team in the finals comprised of all first-year MBA students. 

Karen and a classmate also had a 2nd place finish in the summer of 2014 in the “biffle Battle of the Elite Business Schools” case competition, losing in a tie breaker. The competition helped prepare biffle, a new company, to launch a consumer-centric Marketplace.  She has remained on the “MBA Advisory Board” for baffle. Finally, her team made it to the 2nd round in the BNY Mellon Katz Invitational Case Competition in 2014 as well. 

But Karen is about more than competition. Her contributions in the classroom and within her cohort do not go unnoticed. Karen received the 2014 Excellence in Leadership winner last year, an award that all MBA staff and faculty vote on. In a program of high-achievers, particularly within her class, she is a stand-out. 

Karen is known for going above and beyond, setting a high bar for herself and those around her. Her ability to multi-task and still meet or exceed her goals is impressive, to say the least. 

Karen was a phenomenal president of the Graduate Financial Management Association (GFMA) and led her team to organize one of the best finance trips ever.

Karen and her team of officers spoke with students to find what they really wanted out of the trip and even specific companies/industries they were interested in. They were able to take the program to a new city, change the format of the trip and had such great visits lined up that they had to institute a waitlist for the first time in years and had a record amount of second-year students attend the spring trip.

Additionally, her team also organized stock-picking competitions, lunch-and-learns, “get-together” lunches, and worked with other student organizations on the I3 forum and many other events. These activities were value-adds for our MBA students, and Karen was instrumental in these elements that enhanced the experience for so many of her classmates.” – Dave Deyak, Assistant Dean, Full-time MBA Program


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