Driven to procure their preferred degree

sign that reads "MBA 139 miles" signifying the distance from Omaha to Des Moines, where the Tippie Executive MBA program is taught

Peg Stessman and Levi Scheppers are becoming intimately familiar with Interstate 80.

Every week, the two Omaha residents make the two-hour drive east along the freeway to attend MBA classes through the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Management executive program in Des Moines. They drive to Des Moines on Thursday and spend two days in Des Moines before returning home Saturday evening.

Alex Taylor, director of the Tippie MBA’s executive program in Des Moines, said it’s not unusual for EMBA programs to have students who come from miles away.

“It shows how important an MBA degree has become for people who want to advance their careers, whether they’re in a corporate environment or an entrepreneur,” says Taylor. “People will drive or even fly for hours to earn their degree from a top-ranked program like Tippie’s because the career value of the MBA outweighs the inconvenience.”

The Tippie EMBA expanded to Des Moines in June and has 22 students in its first cohort. Classes are held every other Friday and Saturday at the John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center. Stessman is a UI nursing alumna and owner of Strategic Health Solutions, a company that provides review services for Medicare compliance, fraud, waste and abuse, education, and outreach. She started the company in 2005, and it’s grown into a $14 million, 80-employee enterprise—large enough that she needs more than a nursing degree to manage it.

“An MBA gives you credibility in the business world, and strategic and practical skills that will help my organization grow,” says Stessman. She considered programs closer to home in Omaha, but her familiarity with and loyalty to the UI made it worth driving 140 miles every other week.

“I bleed black and gold,” she says. “I wouldn’t go to any school but the University of Iowa.”

Scheppers also makes the drive from Omaha, and points out that the faculty make a similar drive from the UI campus in Iowa City to teach in the program.

“That commitment really impressed me,” says Scheppers, CFO of the Bellevue Medical Center in suburban Omaha. “It made me realize that they’re as committed to the program as I am if they’re driving almost as far.”