2017 MBAs To Watch: Spencer D. Sorrell, University of Iowa (Tippie)

Spencer D. Sorrell

The University of Iowa, Tippie College of Business

“Better than I was yesterday, but not nearly as great as I will be tomorrow!”

Age: 28

Hometown: Washington, Iowa


Fun fact about yourself: I am a Nationally Certified USA Track and Field Coach and Official

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, IA), BA: Business Administration & Accounting

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

NCS Pearson (Iowa City, IA) – Financial Analyst

DD Sorrell LLC (Washington, IA) – Partner

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Bank of America (Charlotte, NC) – Ops MBA Intern, Global Tech & Ops

Where will you be working after graduation? Bank of America – AVP, Global Operations

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Undergraduate Tutoring
  • Leader, Future Alumni Network (Student Alumni Organization)
  • Tippie Elite MBA Scholarship Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the work we did during our Iowa MBA Consulting class during the second semester of my first year. We worked for a local non-profit to build brand awareness and many of the strategic ideas we proposed were actually put into place or already had plans to be set in motion. This was also an extremely diverse team as far as educational and professional backgrounds which really helped provoke thoughtful ideas and teamwork.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have always been concerned with improving operational efficiency, and automating and/or streamlining processes that had historically been manual is one way to do that. In one of my previous positions there was an end-of-month account reconciliation process that was 100% manual before I took the position. The manual process took two full business days for one person, required a large amount of print outs, and included a lot of data entry with high error rates. The first thing I did was create an Excel macro that automatically pulled data from our internal data warehouse on the first of the month. The process became 100% automated, paperless, and took no more than 15 minutes!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Management Sciences Professor Phil Jones, who taught our Supply Chain Analytics class. While the content of the class was extremely beneficial, it was Professor Jones’ teaching style and eagerness to personalize his approach to each student that created the most value. It was apparent Professor Jones has an aspiration to see each student succeed and comprehend SC concepts at a pace best suited to him/her.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Our Iowa MBA Consulting course project. Our team had the chance to work with a local non-profit and it was through this project that team dynamics were tested, comfort zones were eliminated, and out-of-box thinking was mandatory. This was my first experience where I truly witnessed the change and transformation in our business framework and schema due to b-school.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose the Iowa MBA due to their boutique-style approach to student life and the personalized experience they actively marketed as a key differentiator from other B-schools.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I’ve most enjoyed the everlasting friendships and relationships I have formed with students from different cultures and backgrounds. It has given me a greater appreciation for worldwide diversity not only in national origins, but thought processes as well. These are relationships and cultures I would have not had exposure to had it not been for B-school.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The level and quantity of experiential learning offered. I have worked on 4-5 consulting projects associated with companies and individuals outside of the program. This is an opportunity to apply our MBA-level concepts to real-world scenarios and extend our personal networks with business professionals across the Midwest.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself. The moment you strive to be somebody you’re not is when slippery slopes begin. The school is putting just as much weight on your personality as they are on your prior experience. Disguising who you really are could lead to an unfortunate situation where you find that the school and culture is not a good fit for you.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That due to its small class size and rankings, the opportunities post B-school are limited (geographically and industrially). I have found this is simply untrue. What candidates don’t realize is how well faculty and staff improve a student’s individual network, business acumen, and interpersonal skills. At the end of the day, it’s these assets that are integral to ultimately receiving that ideal job offer.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not taking the time to get to know my fellow classmates sooner than I did. Since I am from the Iowa City area, most of my friends and family are based here, so the first couple months of school I was divided on how to prioritize my time spent and with whom.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Elizabeth Bowe. Elizabeth is humble, kind, hard-working, and reliable: four traits that I deeply value and try to mold my own schema around. I’ve had the chance to work on a number of group projects with her and there has never been an instance where her work was not of the highest quality or past due. I am envious that Elizabeth is a straight shooter and is not afraid to drop the mic if necessary, which takes courage and confidence.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I finished my undergraduate education. I am always striving for ways to differentiate myself from my colleagues and continually improve upon my level of business acumen and general knowledge.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…teaching elementary or secondary education.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would implement a mandatory staff-faculty-student volunteer day. Giving back your time to the community by volunteering is a great way to build self-esteem and teamwork skills. We must come to realize that obtaining our MBA will also give us leverage and a voice that more people will pay attention to. All of us should strive to become that person who will set an example to impact and change the community, nation, and world for the greater good.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To not only be successful, but to also find myself eager to show up to work each and every day. That would be an indicator that I enjoy what I do, find it empowering and challenging, and enjoy being around the people I work with.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I owe my success to my late father, who passed away in 2013. He was a self-made entrepreneur who wound up owning four distinct businesses toward the end of his life. He was the definition of one who was self-made and worked for every penny he earned. He really taught me to appreciate the assets (both tangible and intangible) and friendships I have in life and never look too far ahead… take one day, one hour at a time. And most importantly, work hard, because hard work pays off.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Someone who lived their own way of life without conforming to the expected.

Favorite book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Favorite movie or television show: Lost

Favorite musical performer: Jimmy Fallon, probably one of the most talented people in the world… his duet with Neil Young was classic!

Favorite vacation spot: Mexico

Hobbies? Golf, Boating, Running, Motorcycle, Reading

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

“Spencer returned from his summer internship with Bank of America with a new-found confidence and has become a quiet leader in his second year of the Iowa MBA — serving as a project leader for our Iowa MBA Consulting Project, leading a team of first year students during the MinneAnalytics case competition, and anchoring the Iowa MBA Business Analytics Case Competition team.

Spencer embraces his small town Iowa roots, exhibiting a strong Midwestern work ethic coupled with a humbleness (to include the occasional ‘aw shucks’ moment when praised), and a pragmatic approach to MBA cases and business projects. Selected to lead an Iowa MBA Consulting project, Spencer has the ability to quickly understand complex business challenges and to distill these complexities into a process that will identify key tasks for his team to research or begin work. As impressive, Spencer possesses a calm and casual persona that allows him to more effectively lead his team to solve problems in a high-stress, time constrained environment. A quick personality study, Spencer has an emotional intelligence that enables him to adjust to the situation, personality of client, and fit to the moment. What else can explain an MBA candidate equally comfortable discussing customer heat mapping software as he is sharing those ‘small town’ stories of Iowa with others?

His reputation amongst his classmates is remarkable as both a leader and trusted advisor.  Both staff and faculty share the enthusiasm for Spencer and his ability to take on a project and lead it to a successful conclusion. Put more simply, Spencer is the type of person we would fight to have on our team.”

Dave Deyak

Assistant Dean, Full-time MBA Program



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