2017 MBAs To Watch: Charles Schaller, University of Iowa (Tippie)

Charles Schaller

University of Iowa, Tippie College of Business

“At the end of the day, I just want to make people’s lives better.”

Age:  33

Hometown: Rochester, MN

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve produced, directed and starred in a one-man play (Toured 70 performances internationally).

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management, BSB Marketing

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Cru Global, Area Director for Strategic Growth and Investor Acquisition

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? TIAA, Charlotte, NC

Where will you be working after graduation? UnitedHealth Group, Associate Director of Market Analysis

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Graduating with Honors, Habitat for Humanity, Youth Mentoring Program, Compassion International Humanitarian Aid Organization, Pro-Bono Google analytics consultant: Center for Neighborhood Technology, Iowa MBA Consulting Team Leader, Henry Fund Healthcare Analyst

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was one of only two students in my class selected for both Henry Fund and Iowa MBA Consulting leadership roles. These are the only two courses in the program that require a highly competitive application process. I am most proud of these roles because they allowed me to give back to Tippie, both through managing a scholarship endowment fund and acting as a mentor and leader to a group of our 1st year MBA’s. Tippie has done so much for me and I am grateful for the chance to give back.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In August of 2015 I was asked by the CEO of my company to be a keynote speaker at a major fundraising event that brought in over $13,000,000 in charitable giving.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Oh man, its honestly a 10-way tie. If I had to choose one, it would be Todd Houge, Professor of Financial Modeling and Director of the Henry Fund. Todd possesses that rare blend of genius level financial intellect and authentic humility. I had very little financial modeling experience when he selected me for the Henry Fund and I will always be grateful for him taking a chance on me.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it?  Applied Sector Analysis (Henry Fund). I worked with a team of 10 of my classmates to manage $5 million in university endowment to be used for scholarships. The work was brutally demanding but infinitely rewarding. The biggest thing I took from it is that the market rewards those who are able to look at problems differently and draw conclusions from incomplete data.

Why did you choose this business school?  Obviously Iowa’s rankings played a part (among the best for payback time, employment rate, and Finance MBA), but what really sold me was the smaller class size. When I toured the program one of the first things I noticed was how bonded the class was. This group of 55 people all knew each other’s names and histories. They were genuinely invested in each other’s futures as well.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general?  The people. I had the blessing of spending two years alongside 60 people who all possess some knowledge or life experience that I lack. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my professors, but I would estimate half of what I’m taking away from business school I learned from conversations and discussions with peers outside of class.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you?  Business school is as much an education in learning how to strategically fail as it is a lesson in how to succeed. The most effective managers are those who know that not every problem, task, or initiative should receive equal effort, resources or attention. The first semester of business school is similar to drinking from a firehose; you realize quickly that triage is necessary as you learn to distinguish the important things from the most important things and adjust your strategy in response.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?  Know your story and tell it well. The admissions board is going to be looking at your holistic story. Know how all the elements of your past play into the larger story of your life: your GPA, GMAT, and work experiences. Also, your story isn’t just about your past. The admissions board wants to know that you have a strong plan for your future and that an MBA is going to be a key element of that plan.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Most people hear “University of Iowa” and assume we are a small town in the middle of a corn field. The University of Iowa (and Iowa City in general) are a beautiful, vibrant and progressive community filled with almost all of the music, art and food you would find in a larger city. And yes… there is plenty of corn too.

What was your biggest regret in business school?  I wish I’d had a little more of the “college experience” that my peers had. I’m blessed to have an incredible wife and two great little boys who have been extremely supportive during the MBA process. One commitment I made to myself at the start of b-school was that Abbie and the boys wouldn’t have to miss out on time with me any more than necessary. The trade-off of this was fewer late nights with friends, football games, and road trips than I would have taken if I were a single guy. In the long run though, totally worth it.

 Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My buddy Nihar Patel. As a career changer, there were myriad terms, phrases and concepts that I had never heard before showing up at Tippie. Nihar is brilliant and has a wealth of business knowledge and experience. He has served as my own personal Google search engine whenever I had a question in class. Our Facebook Messenger log has got to be about 50 pages long…

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I had advanced as far as I could based on my aptitude (what I was naturally good at) and my experience (what I’d seen other people do). I knew it was time to add a “third heat” of strong quantitative analysis and management theory.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…better rested but much less excited about my future.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?  Experiential learning is so critical to the b-school experience. I’d create more opportunities for MBAs to lead real teams and manage real money during their time in b-school. 

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?  My measure of career success has always been a function of making the largest possible positive impact in the lives of people. Money and status have never been huge motivators. For me, it’s all about maximizing influence. I’m drawn to executive leadership because it brings with it the complex challenge of maximizing positive impact in the lives of everyone from your customers, to your employees, to your shareholders. I’m also very drawn to healthcare for this reason.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My wife Abbie. No question, I would not have been able to manage the complexities of the MBA program while balancing healthy family life without her.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?  I hope they can all remember a time we laughed together.

Favorite book: The Count of Monte Cristo

Favorite movie or television show: The Shawshank Redemption

Favorite musical performer: Paul Simon

Favorite vacation spot: Two-way tie:  New York City and Eagle River, Wisconsin.

Hobbies?  In my spare time I play guitar, camp and brew beer. Brewing Beer has been a great developmental hobby as it’s a blend of art and science. Plus, my basement looks like something out of Breaking Bad.

What made Charles such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Charlie came to the Iowa MBA looking to pivot from the nonprofit sector. Since his arrival, he has actively pursued new and challenging learning opportunities in which he can gain new skills—including as an analyst for the Henry Fund, a $4.9M endowed equity portfolio, and as an Iowa MBA Consulting Project leader. Both require a highly competitive application process and very few students take on both challenges.  Highly contextually aware, Charlie does not choose these programs lightly, instead, building on them to make his transition from non-profit into a corporate role that still provides him the opportunity to make an impact in the healthcare field.

Charlie’s story is one of dreaming big, instead of envisioning a life of service as a life without reward.  We have always believed that the power of the Iowa MBA program is to transform lives and Charlie is a great example of the power of this transformation.  We have been proud to watch Charlie emerge as a leader within our program and to now see him choosing a career and industry where he can continue to improve the lives of others is very satisfying.

Charlie is engaged, interested, and supportive—bringing enthusiasm, leadership and building relationships inside and outside of the program.  As a parent of young children, Charlie and his wife took the initiative to invite the families of first year students to a potluck picnic early on in the academic year. He regularly brings his children to our family-friendly diversity events like Diwali and Lunar New Year, sharing the celebrations with his peers and his kids. Charlie’s experience supports the old adage that good things do happen to good people.”

Dave Deyak

Assistant Dean, Full-time MBA Program



Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.