Full of Passion and Energy, Dr. Amy Hietapelto Takes Reins as Dean

Dean Amy Hietapelto
August 5, 2013

LSBE Dean Amy Hietapelto jumped in with both feet on her first day - July 1, and it's been an engaging whirlwind ever since.

LSBE Dean Amy Hietapelto jumped in with both feet on her first day – July 1, and it's been an engaging whirlwind ever since.

In her first two weeks, she met with approximately 20-plus department heads, professors, program directors, students, as well as numerous community business people. She calls her meetings a "listening tour," a vital part of her plan of action for her first ninety days.

"Over the next two months, I want to touch as many stakeholders as possible, both inside and outside of LSBE, in order to understand our key strategic issues," Hietapelto said. LSBE plans a September faculty-staff retreat.

She is often found in LSBE's atrium talking with students. Recently one student in a group asked her, "What one thing do you want to do as dean?"

"I was really impressed by his question," she said. "It took me a few minutes to think of the one thing that surpasses everything I want to do, but my response was that I want to enhance our student placement, in terms of internships, and both quality and quantity of job offers, including starting salaries." LSBE already does an excellent job of placing its students. The UMD Graduate Follow-up Report cites that LSBE had a 96% placement rate for the 2011/2012 academic year graduates, although there is some variation by program.

Additionally, Hietapelto wants to bring in even more corporate executives and business professionals to interact with LSBE sudents, with such ideas including a possible international management conference. "Some of our majors and degree programs have more access to these types of interactions and experiences than others, but we want to enhance all students' opportunities to interact with the business community on our superlative campus."

Hietapelto received an enthusiastic reaction by the students for her answers. "They were excited to hear about those options," she said.

Hietapelto's passion for education is evident. As a first generation college graduate, and the first in her family to earn a college degree, she worked her way through college waitressing, and knows the value that comes from earning a college education. "I'm drawn to providing excellent, accessible education because I went to state universities, and received a high quality, affordable education. I strongly believe that a quality education should be accessible to all."

Hietapelto received a Bachelor of Science degree (psychology) and an MBA (marketing), both from Michigan State University. Her Ph.D. is from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a focus in the area of Organizational Studies.

"Regional state educational institutions have crucial roles to play in order to provide opportunities for an excellent education and to facilitate the economic development of their respective regions," she said. Coming to Duluth was divine intervention for Hietapelto, who, when she saw that Dean Emeritus Kjell Knudsen was retiring, thought, "That's my dream job!"

She comes by those feelings as a past resident of Minnesota. Her father was a freighter captain and her family split time between Minnesota and Florida. "I grew up in Florida, but Minnesota feels like home," she said. As a teenager, she actually sailed the Great Lakes on her father's ore boat with her family.

Hietapelto came to LSBE from serving as Dean of the College of Business and Management at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) in Chicago. She was also a faculty member at Michigan Technological University and Clarkson University.

While Chicago doesn't seem like that far away from Duluth, and NEIU is a business school, Hietapelto is experiencing some changes. NEIU is an urban commuter institution, with no dorms or athletic teams, "so it was a challenge to bring students to campus," she said of differences between the schools. It also was extremely diverse with approximately 30% of the student population being Hispanic.

"NEIU's diversity of students, faculty and staff is representative of the diversity of Chicago as a whole," Hietapelto added. "We look forward to enhancing the diversity at LSBE, and producing more cross-cultural opportunities here for our students."

Additionally, as NEIU is an urban commuter institution, most of the classes are taught at night with roughly half of the students being transfer students. "Overall it is a completely different culture than UMD's" said Hietapelto.

Hietapelto's largest challenge at UMD to date has been "navigating around the maze of buildings" on campus. On her numerous ventures to the Darland Administration Building, Hietapelto needed to ask directions. "What I found wonderful was how many people would actually offer to walk me to the next location."

Looking ahead, Hietapelto's overarching priority is to ensure that everything is well positioned for LSBE to be reaccredited by AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, in fall 2014. Accreditation, which is earned by only 5% of business schools in the world, signifies that LSBE continues to meet the most challenging standards and highest criteria in business education.

Additionally, Hietapelto's goals for LSBE include looking for opportunities for enrollment growth in both undergraduate and graduate programs, and in the development of new programs, including entrepreneurship, as well as collaboration with other academic units on new programs. "LSBE has done a wonderful job of offering high value programs to our students, and we need to continue to do that, while expanding the numbers of students we serve in those programs," she said. "We also definitely have the capacity for growth in our graduate program, and opportunities for new graduate programs."

Some nonacademic things Hietapelto is eagerly anticipating include the definitive change of seasons and snow, the lack of traffic jams, hearing the foghorn instead of police sirens and traffic noises, seeing the red fox that visits outside her office window, and most importantly, taking faculty and staff whitewater rafting this spring.

Over the years, she has taken numerous groups of faculty and staff on whitewater rafting adventures, including on the Hudson, Black, Ottawa and Rouge Rivers in the Adirondacks and Canada. "I've never lost anyone yet," she quipped.

Rafting is one of her favorite pastimes. Before coming to Duluth, she and her husband, Roger Reinsch, and their daughter, Anika, went whitewater rafting on the Inn River in the German Alps in June.

Other fun things Hietapelto loves to do are skiing ("But I’m very bad at it," she said with a laugh), and reading post-apocalyptic novels. She also claims to make great cheesecakes (chocolate raspberry truffle or apricot amaretto marzipan, for instance) - ask her past students, as they sampled them the end of every semester! Hietapelto also loves hockey, as she was a hockey mom for her goalie son Nick, and jokes she wrote her dissertation in ice rinks. She is excited about attending UMD athletic events.

Since her arrival, Hietapelto has been on the go, while slowly settling in. "Everyone has been wonderful and extremely welcoming," she said. "I look forward to being an ambassador for the outstanding work we do here at LSBE."